Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pushing Your Career Muscles to the Limit

The only way to grow muscle when strength training is to lift to a point of exhaustion…then go a little beyond that point. It makes sense, if you think about it, because of the body’s remarkable ability to adapt to the physical stress presented upon it. More stress makes the body grow; less stress keeps it the same.

Have you looked at your career in the same way? What pressure have you put on yourself to create a career that is rewarding, fulfilling, and makes a difference in the world? Think about these three areas of your work life and the focus questions after each.

Work performance: You begin a job not knowing how to “do” it, gradually moving to level of competence that becomes second nature. This is a good thing because it demonstrates competence and productivity, but there’s a temptation to hit a “peak” and not progress from there. Going beyond that peak-challenging and questioning your status quo and the organization’s status quo-leads to more personal engagement and fulfillment.

  • Have I mastered what I currently do?

  • Are there improvements that I can make in the procedures or processes of my current position?

Challenging projects: Challenging projects-beyond what you are doing now-will help your career grow through giving you new skills, putting these skills (and your current ones) to test in new environments, and allow you to show your versatility.

  • Do I proactively seek out new projects that will allow me to do so?

  • What projects do I currently know of would benefit from my involvement?

  • How would these projects help grow me professionally?

Relationships: There are relationships that you naturally cultivate at work-such as ones with your supervisor and coworkers-but going further to grow relationships with those outside your immediate work unit is indispensible in creating a network of peers that can attest to your great work performance.

  • What relationships do I need to cultivate to position myself for the next step in my career?

  • Who have I tried to get to know outside my work unit?

  • What reputation do I want to cultivate with those outside my work unit?

Career improvement is a journey; not a destination. Fight complacency by challenging yourself to go beyond the normal and what’s comfortable. Your career muscles will thank you for it.

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