After working with nearly 6,000 clients globally during the past 12 years as their career and life coach I have come across some common themes that clients are dealing with when it comes to managing their career and moving ahead. Recently, a friend sent me the Seven Rules for an effective life. After looking at those rules I realized that the same rules apply well to one’s career management. So, in this blog I am going to re-frame those rules and provide a context in which those rules apply to your career management.
Make peace with your past, so it won’t screw up the present
Most of us make some mistakes in our careers, either of commission or of omission. Regardless, dwelling on those missteps and personalizing them merely creates angst and does not provide any value to making things better in the future. It is also disabling and debilitating. If you must revisit that past do it merely to uncover the learning from those mistakes. Use that learning to create a better future based on that insight. This way your past can only help you propel you forward and not suck you into the negative energy created by that episode(s).
What others think of you is none of your business
I cannot even tell you how many clients when they first come to me have no clear view of what they want and are bothered by what others expect from them and from their life. For example, when I ask someone confused about what direction to take to move ahead in their career they often cite their relatives or neighbors of what they expect from them (“ever since my childhood my grandfather wanted me to be a surgeon,” etc.). What you must remember is that these people in your circle do not really know what you are about and what life will work for you. Only you know that. So, before you surrender your ambitions to the mere wishes of others take a hard look at what you want to do and go for it.
This rule also applies for not heeding your concerns about others’ views of your actions if you strongly believe that those actions are the right ones for you to take. You may want to use someone you trust as a sounding board and review them objectively. But, you must not care about the fallout of your actions if you have taken them after careful consideration and trusting your instincts.
Time heals almost everything, give it time
When you are engaged in your job it is difficult not to take how you are treated and personalize it in adverse times. Instead, I suggest taking anything that is adverse, invidious, perverse, and malicious personally and then dealing with it forthrightly. What is the difference? When you personalize something it means you are rationalizing what happened and then blaming yourself for the outcome (“I wish I had not argued with my boss about that assignment.”). Instead, when you take such treatment personally it means that you are taking charge for what happened and moving ahead in a positive way (see Rule #1). Do not dwell too much on the negativity surrounding a setback. Learn to move on and over time, you’ll develop a perspective about it that will be help you deal with it in a much more constructive way, moving forward.
Don’t compare your life to others’ and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is about.
Many of my clients come to me because they feel that they are not doing as well as their classmates or peers and have fallen behind in their achievements. In fact, one of the questions in my Client Intake Questionnaire asks them if they are suffering from Competitive Apprehension (friends are doing better). About 50% respond with a Yes to that question.
This is puzzling to me. Each person charts their own journey and there are myriad factors that influence how that journey shapes-up and results in the outcomes that it creates. If, instead of focusing on the outcomes of that journey, they focus on the learning and richness that stems from the setbacks and adjustments needed to recover and move ahead, they would have a much better view of themselves. I always remind my clients, who bring this up and regret their station in life that appearances can be deceiving. So, do not be fooled by what appears to you as a better station that someone has achieved. Instead, just be happy with your blessings and work on your own journey to take you where you want to now go.
Stop thinking too much; it is all right to not know the answers. They will come to you when you least expect it.
Even before my first meeting with a client they respond to my Client Intake Questionnaire. In that there are some deep questions that ask about their views on their dreams, future, and past learnings. About 10% of the prospects never finish the Questionnaire and are not able to meet with me because they are paralyzed by what the answers might be to these deep questions. A small percentage also takes months to get the Questionnaire back to me because they think and rethink their answers to these questions. My guidance to all my prospects is that they give spontaneous responses and that we can explore them further during the first meeting. It is sometimes easier to surrender to a free-flowing thought process and leave yourself open to seeking better answers when they manifest on their own or at appropriate times. Besides, not knowing all the answers is a good starting point for some serious self-discovery.
No one is in charge of your happiness except you
When clients come to me it is because they need help to get out of some career tight spots, trouble, or pain they need to deal with. Some wear their unhappiness on their sleeves and are down on themselves and how the world is treating them. My response to this mindset is for them to consider themselves lucky that they have come to seek help in moving ahead and are poised for a turnaround by following some simple rules of career management. They get all wrapped up in their immediate setbacks and negativity. This merely prolongs their recovery. Keeping a positive outlook and being happy about your status, even in the moment, can help accelerate your recovery. A positive attitude and happiness may not always get what you want, but it will bother the heck out of others, which alone is enough reason for you to be happy.
Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world.
Learn to always smile, whistle, or sing even in troubled times. It will make your troubles more bearable.