Do you feel stuck in your career?
Do you feel like something is missing in your career?
Maybe you’re at a point where you want to make a career change and you’re not sure how to go about it?
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, you’re not alone. I’ve talked to many young professionals and emerging leaders who go through the same thing.
Many of them went to college, got a degree only to realize that they did not like the field in which they got their degrees.
In this article, I want to share some lessons drawn from my first book Sell Yourself Right
We hear fairly common terms like “broaden your horizons” and “your attitude determines your altitude” and “unlock your career potential” all the time but… what do they really mean?
The fact is, clichés happen for a very specific reason; they resonate with people and, in just a few words, crystallize for people something they’ve been feeling for quite some time.
Take the topic of unlocking your career potential. Again, what does that really mean? For me, when you unlock something, for example a door, you allow yourself access to an area that has been closed to you. You get to go somewhere new and potentially exciting; you get to explore uncharted territories and broaden your horizons. And, in a sense, that’s what this article is all about: taking you someplace, career-wise, you’ve never, ever been before.
But locks require keys, and most of the time, doors are locked for a reason. While there may be no good reason for someone to deliberately try to keep you from having the career of your dreams, the fact remains that there will be instances where people may try to prevent you from getting your dream job. In Africa, this is certainly not strange. Many of us, while growing up, leave our career dreams to others – our parents, temporary circumstances, etc.
Your dream job isn’t just going to land in your lap; you’re going to have to work for it, but I’m going to make that quest a little easier by helping you find the first key that really does open up a whole new world of personal and professional opportunity for you.
Ready for it?
Key # 1 – Find Your Passion
We all have something we’re deeply passionate about. Whether we realize it or not, we do.
There are certain jobs which make us more fulfilled than others. Those things we would do if money were not an option. For me, my passion is empowering others whether through speech, or the written word. Finding your passion helps you deliver you best performance which goes a long way in helping you achieve your career dreams.
Let’s take the story of a friend of mine who I’d call Rhonda.
All “Rhonda” ever wanted was to be an artist for a living. Everyone told her – from her parents to her high school guidance counselor, to her friends and teachers – how hard it would be to see her dream come true.
Ronda heard them, but went after her goals anyway.
She got small jobs with artistic components. During college she was a freelance illustrator for some independent comic books. After school she worked at an ad agency in the graphics department.
She worked lots of graphics jobs, but always for “someone else.” And most of them were on the computer. Ronda wanted to work with big canvases, colors and paints, watercolors and oils, not mice and graphics software.
Ronda knew that to live her passion, she would need to make some tough decisions. She budgeted her money and took less graphics work, and more physical work. She started with a simple wall painting project for a local daycare.
She found the exercise fulfilling, in more ways than one. Every day as she painted the long, brick wall behind the school, the children would line up to watch her work. Soon, parents were joining their kids.
Word spread and by the time Ronda finished the mural wall, she had several other painting jobs lined up. She painted walls in kids’ bedrooms and playrooms, on other day cares and soon had quite a following of local admirers.
One of them was a children’s writer who wanted to use her illustrations in a new book! By discovering her passion, her true passion, and making some hard choices, Ronda was able to realize her dream – one brush stroke at a time.
Before you can go anywhere new, you have to have a new attitude. One of the easiest ways to jumpstart a new career, job, raise, position, franchise, investment, invention, responsibility or opportunity is to discover – and in many cases rediscover – your passion.
In many ways, I’m like that high school guidance counselor (or uncle for most African families) who sat you down one day and asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” But unlike that person, when you answer excitedly “Fly jets,” “Be a rapper,” “Start a magazine,” “Write a book,” “Invent the next Facebook” or “Start an upscale recycling center,” I’m not going to laugh at you, twirl my moustache and say, “Why don’t we aim for something a little more stable or reasonable first, okay?”
You’ve probably gone the “something more stable or reasonable” route already, and hated it. I know I’ve been down that route. Trying to do something “stable”. It Sucked!
So often in life we start young and with great passion, but along the way that passion gets beat out of us. Who does these beating? Our parents, our teachers, our counselors, our friends and, eventually, our professors, HR reps, colleagues and employers.
Here’s the funny thing though. In most cases their intentions may be good, but the results aren’t often as good. It’s not necessarily their fault. We all know the chances of rapping for a living, or writing or singing or being an artist or starting an airline or opening up a – what was it? – oh yeah, an “upscale recycling center” are nothing short of astronomical, but… should that make us any less passionate about it?
You can only experience True Wealth, when you’re doing the thing which fulfills you the most.
Have you ever heard of an artist, entrepreneur and businessman known as… P. Diddy? I thought so.
Well, once upon a time this worldwide success story was a lowly intern at a local recording studio, sweeping floors and running errands for free in order to learn everything he could about the recording industry.
Why would such a savvy businessperson give away his time, talent and treasure for free? Simple: Diddy had a dream and knew that the people he was working for would give him the valuable tools he’d need to succeed as few other people have before.
Diddy had a passion for music, and the connections he made during that internship, to say nothing of the hard won experience and knowledge gained, gave him the foundation and the tools to create his own mini-empire!
If you want to truly “unlock your career potential,” then you have to be open and honest about what you’re actually passionate about in the first place. It may not be easy, but it’s absolutely essential.
How do you identify your passion? Here are some simple ways to start:
- Write them down: Make a list of what inspires you. What are those things that send you moving with loads of energy? Here is a question I teach my clients to ask themselves: If everything on earth was at your beck and call, and all you had to do was simply request it and servants will be rushing to bring it, what would you do to keep you busy?Really, think about it, if you did not have to work again for the rest of your life, no matter how long that could be, what would you do to counteract boredom? Therein lays your passion.
Really take time and think through this question. It is not one that should be answered impulsively. For me, that answer is simple now: Write. Travel. Speak. Watch Action Movie and Interesting Documentaries! But it wasn’t always that easy.
After some serious soul searching I found that I loved sharing experiences (whether my own or of other people) with folks whose life can be improved by them. It’s about giving advice that lead people in the right direction. Now, whether that advice comes by way of a keynote speech, a weekend seminar, a book, an audio program, or whatever else is in between, one thing is for certain: I love giving out pieces of advice.
- Link passions with careers: As you take time to really answer the question I asked earlier about what you would do if the whole world belonged to you, don’t be too quick to prioritize or categorize; just list whatever pops into your head until you’ve exhausted all activities.Trust me; every activity you list will have at least one career option attached to it. No matter what that area of interest is. So let’s say you would spend the time drinking wine or beer, or “just” watching movies. Well, did you know there were such professions as wine critic, or beer taster, or movie critic?There are thousands of people all over the world making millions of dollars just by doing what they love, and are passionate about.Now, let me say here that sometimes there may be no physical career to go with your passion in your current locality. When this is the case, then you need to consider your next best passion while you figure out ways by which you can create a career out of you main passion. With the penetration of the internet, you can always begin a career as a blogger and blog about your passion.
Here’s a great free resource that will teach you how you can start blogging about your passion like I’m doing.
- Cross them off: Next, start eliminating those items that do not really get you pyched up just by thinking of them. Keep the ones that really get you juiced up.
- Zero in: Now look at what you’re left with. Chances are, you’re starting to see a running theme here! Maybe you’re seeing lots of things that have to do with cooking, or baking, or catering, or just plain food. Maybe all the items left on your list have to do with gardening, or plants or nurseries; or music, records, singing, recording, etc.
- Define: Take the remaining items on your list and create a job description for what energizes you the most. For all those cooking terms? Write down, “baker,” “chef,” “cookbook author” or “bakery owner.” Flowers and plants? Write down “nursery owner,” “gardener,” “landscape architect,” etc. This “funneling down” process will really help you narrow down your passion – and focus your specific career goals as well.
Often times, the job choice associated with your passion may not be easily available. This is especially true if you live in a particular environment where only certain types of professions thrive. When this is the case it can be really challenging. Fortunately, there’s the internet. With the internet, you can literally turn any passion into a lucrative internet business. The bottom line here is, in this day and age, nothing should stop you from pursuing your passion.
As Confucius so rightly put it …
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Key # 2: Know Your Definition of Success.
My definition of success is and should be different from yours. The second secret to unlocking your career potential is knowing what success means to you, and you alone. So you’ve identified a career that is in line with your passions, now you must measure whether or not that career will be as successful as you want it to be…and the only way you can measure that is if you know what success means to you. Not what success means to your parents, your friends, your old college roommates, Donald Trump or even your spouse.
For those of us who have online businesses, it’s easy to start to think that becuase a number of people make over $50,000 a month, so you need to also make the same amount. That is wrong thinking.
Before going any further, ask yourself:
- Do I have to be a millionaire to be successful?
- Do I have to own my own company?
- Do I have to live in a big house and drive fancy cars?
- Do I have to have an assistant – or several assistants?
- Do I have to dress to impress and eat at all the right places?
- Do I have to constantly “tell” people how successful I am?
- Do I have to feel satisfied and content with the work I’ve done – and the legacy I’ve left behind?
There are no “right” or “wrong” answers to the above questions; only that honest responses will help steer your course in the proper direction. Hey, if success means lots of money, a big house and fancy cars, better to know that now and make the right career choices for that type of lifestyle.
Likewise, if for you success means living your passion authentically and creating a body of work or achieving a series of goals that leave you satisfied, content and proud regardless of the what part of town you live in or the amount of money you have in your bank account, then you are now free to seek out job choices that match your particular definition of success. For instance, perhaps your lifelong goal is to open up a bakery in town. How does this fit with your job as the manager of a gas station? Well, it doesn’t! But… if you scrimp and save and network and find a storefront and work up a menu and get your health permits and buy your supplies, this dream is actually very achievable.
Do you really want to be a full time blogger?
Or are you better cut out for the life of a product creator?
That was my situation. As far back as 2005 I knew I loved writing, and somehow, it I made myself believe that the answer was freelance writing. Well, to cut a long story short I grew as a better person, to realize that freelance writing was not my thing.
Now, what will your definition of success be? For some, it might be starting s successful car rental company like City Cars, for others, it might be creating the next eatery like PA’s! But for you, perhaps success will be leaving your “day” job at the gas station and being able to work at your bakery full-time.
The important piece to defining your own success is to not compare yourself with anyone in any way. Realize that you are your own person and that there is no need to put limits on yourself, at the highest or lowest levels. Defining success as being the world’s greatest boxer since Mohammed Ali or George Foreman will be what I’m referring to as comparing yourself and putting limits at the highest level.
Instead of comparing yourself with those guys, success for you could simply mean winning the heavy weight title at least once. You do not have to be the biggest or the richest or # 1, but to truly succeed you need to find out what those numbers mean to you.
When I started writing this book sixteen months ago, my definition for success was quite different from what it is now. At the time, I had been working as freelance consultant for about five years; but somehow I felt that by starting my own consulting firm with about five or so employees, I would be considered successful. That it would make me feel like I’d “arrived.”
Well, to cut a long story short, the last thing I want to do right now is to run a company full time. As I type these lines, I am now working out a strategy to transfer my employees to another company on whose board I serve, as well as getting a smooth transition on business ideas that I have. Success for me, right now, means that I am able to be free and study metaphysics as well as write as many books as I can while doing seminars, etc.
So don’t be afraid that your definition of success will be written in stone; it can change, evolve and adjust over time – just like you.
Key # 3: Know Your Potential
The third key to unlocking your career potential lies in knowing your own potential. This includes being realistic about your strengths, your weaknesses – even your limitations.
While we all think we “know” what we can achieve; it is important that we dig deeper. Self-assessment may be one of the most difficult things to do; but to succeed in life, especially as it relates to manifesting you dream career, you must be able to “look at yourself from the outside” and call things as you see them.
By knowing your true potential, you will position yourself to go after the right career options. If your potential doesn’t match up with the career you desire, then you know you still need to develop a skill set until those two things do align.
Where you are is not necessarily where to remain; this may be the tip of your particular iceberg.
You want to achieve more from your life; or your wouldn’t be reading this. One of the first steps in achieving more is realizing you have more to give!
For instance, if your current job is restricting you because you know you can do so much more, that is recognizing that you have more potential than your day job is fulfilling.
This is a sign that you can do more, that you should do more and that if you aren’t going to be allowed to “do more” where you are, that you should begin quietly and persistently trying to find a company that will let you do more. Or Start a local or online business that will allow you express the extra potential in you.
In fact, you might never find a company where you can do more; you might have to actually start a company where you can “do more” than you ever imagined!
Your potential also has guardrails and knowing your limits is not the same as giving in to defeat. For instance, if you want to unlock your career potential in the field of, say, designing bikes, the world is potentially your oyster.
How many bikes you design, where you design them, the creativity and spark behind your designs, your clients, etc., are all within your control.
What you have to determine for yourself is how big you want to get.
For instance, do you want to be a shaper-slash-designer for a big corporate giant like Schwinn or BMX, or do you want to open your own shop and quietly, consistently, creatively build a very low-key but exclusive client list of top-notch bikers?
There is no shame in either, only a realistic expectation set from the very beginning. The same is true for any career track, be it management, sales, running shoes, musician, gardening tools or, yes, even bike design.
Knowing your potential – and your limitations – helps you tailor-design a career track that’s just right for you.
Key #4: Know Your Resources
One way to supercharge your career potential is to utilize the resources that are available to you.
“Resources” include any or all of the following:
- Going back to school to add a first, second, third or a specialized degree: If a specialized or additional degree will make achieving your career goals a reality, what is stopping you from going back to school and obtaining it?
- Additional certifications or master’s work: Some programs won’t take you without an MBA; some places won’t hire you without a Ph.D. What is it you’re lacking to achieve your specific career or placement goals? If you find a specific weakness and can easily plug it by taking a class or certification, make that a reality by signing up today.
- Weekend classes, seminars or conferences: People interested in selling themselves know they need to stand out in a crowd. That’s why they never stop working (or selling or creating). You can’t stand out if you only work from 9 to 5; invest your time, energy and commitment into taking weekend classes, seminars or conferences to set yourself apart from the pack.
- On the job training or apprenticeship programs: Start where you are. Selling yourself right involves daily devotion to your own career, plan or life goals. Don’t wait until you get your “dream job” to start achieving your dreams. Taking advantage of any on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs lets you show those in power that you’re serious about excelling right where you are.
- Management or leadership tracks: What opportunities does your company offer in the form of management or leadership tracks? If that is your goal, the sooner you start, the sooner you accomplish that particular goal. Express your interest early so that you can apply for the next position that comes up.
- Self-help books, tapes, CDs and DVDs: I have learned countless lessons from my daily devotion to learning from others who have experienced what I want to enjoy. There are numerous books available either in hard copy on online. Find them, and read them, Start from the small book shop nearby, and if you can’t find anything, then you most definitely need to hit the INTERNET.
So have you found anything helpful in this article?
I’d love you hear you thoughts in the comments area below.
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