Tips to build the career you want

Having a career is so much more than making a living. It is immeasurably life enhancing to be doing something you enjoy and to feel a sense of progression as you develop in your chosen career. But developing and maintaining a satisfying career does not just happen, it takes work but the good news is you are in control of the process and can act as your own ‘career coach’ to lift your game.

And many of us do need to lift our game as far as our careers are concerned. Job satisfaction seems to be a precious commodity at present amongst Australian workers. In fact, when respondents to a survey run by were asked to describe how they feel about their current role, only 51% said they either love it or like iti. That means for around half of us there is a lot of room for improvement. Even if you are satisfied with your current role for now, in an environment of constant change and complexity it’s always a good idea to take steps to be more active and in control of your career.

It’s estimated that the average person changes jobs 12 times in their lifetime and the main reason for a shift is career progressionii. In order to achieve long lasting satisfaction with our career choices it’s important to feel a sense of progression and that’s where career coaching comes in.

Lifting your game

A whole industry has grown up around career coaching, where you engage the services of a professional to help you progress to the next level and “lift your game”. While we may be talking about your performance in the boardroom rather than the sports field, sports and career coaches similarly enable the people they support and work with to elevate their capabilities.

Engaging a career coach is not for everybody. Not everyone has the means or the desire to get expert help, but there are a few things we can learn from the experts that can be applied to your own career to get you out of that rut or jump to the next challenge.

Self-reflection is key

The first step is reflection – to develop self-awareness of your strengths and your weaknesses and understand how others perceive you. Be a little ruthless in your self-examination and realistic about what you have to offer, as well as the areas you have to work on. It can help to frame “weaknesses” as “opportunities” – just be sure that addressing those opportunities will advance your career.

Open questioning

The experts in this field use questioning as a tool to encourage self-reflection and the most effective form of questioning is to keep things open ended. For example, instead of asking “do I like this job?”, try asking “what do I most like about this job?” Here are a few useful open-ended questions to get you started;

  • What gives me the most energy at work?

  • How do I improve the feedback I receive?

  • When do my internal doubts hold me back?

  • How can I accelerate my career progression?

Set career goals

That old dinosaur that’s dragged out in job interviews “where do you want to be in 5 years?” has some validity when it comes to your career aspirations. The first step towards finding your destination is deciding what it is. Think about the short-term (i.e. a year) as well as the longer term (i.e. 5-10 years).

Then once you have a destination (or series of destinations) in mind, you need to put some steps in place to achieve your goals and make and protect the necessary time to work on the steps that support your career aspirations.

Get help

Even if you are comfortable being your own career coach, you don’t have to go it alone. Identify when you are at a point where you need a hand and reach out, whether that means learning additional skills and accessing further education or seeking out advice. Help can also be in the form of a mentor or even a good friend in a similar field who can act as a sounding board and source of encouragement.

There is a saying “chose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. Achieving a challenging and fulfilling career takes work and ideally is an ongoing process but given the importance of our jobs in our lives, any time and effort you can spend advancing your career is going to be very well spent.



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