Careers

Future-Proof Your Career in 2015

Everyone knows that the workplace is full of pitfalls and challenges. But when you let everyday issues go unresolved, you stop getting good work done, lose sight of the things that inspire you and can become disengaged.

Facing too many challenges for too long can cause chronic stress and erode health and well-being. 

Related: Conquer Stress and Master Sleep for a Richer Life

Based on this stark reality, here are three questions to consider as you take stock of 2014:

1. Are you getting great work done or are your best efforts undermined by unexpected challenges?

2. Are you staying on purpose and delivering added value to your organization or do you find yourself struggling to make a positive contribution and remain relevant at work?

3. Do you worry that your current job could be outsourced, downsized or automated or that someone else smarter and hungrier is right behind you?

These are tough questions but with a little time and focused attention, you can find answers and set your career on a firmer path toward long-term success.

If this year has left you feeling uncertain about your future, then it’s time go on the offensive. And it can all start by going beyond the job description of what you do at work.

I don't just mean work harder or put in more hours. Make deliberate choices in order to add your greatest contribution to the team’s highest priorities. 

Related: Chart Goals to Create a Road Map to Your Success

There are two fundamental truths about the world of work.

First, whether you realize it or not, the standard job description tells only part of the story about work. In addition to the tasks and activities a staff person must perform, countless other challenges exist to doing great work. Think about difficult people, confusing workplace politics and unwritten rules about what's acceptable. 

Plus in today’s competitive landscape, standing out, getting ahead of the change curve and staying relevant at work come from an ability to continuously improve your learning and performance as you confront the hidden demands of work. 

These two factors -- the need for continuous learning and the presence of everyday performance barriers -- form the hidden curriculum of work.

Professional athletes master the fundamentals of their sports and excel at the highest levels. But they still have to learn how to deal with wealth, fame and the many other challenges and distractions associated with the world of professional sports. In the same way, there's a hidden curriculum at work that everyone encounters. 

Most people confront their challenges on the job through trial and error, accumulating the bruises and scars along the way. A better way is create a future-proof plan to withstand unexpected challenges and stay relevant in the competitive world of work. 

Your future-proof plan is like a tightly packed synopsis of your vision and strategy for success on the job.  

To create your plan, dial into the core elements that drive your success in three steps: Start by refining your vital purpose. Figure out what you do that nobody else can do in quite the same way. Next, clarify your value-added contributions: What are the specific things you say and do that add distinct value and set you apart? Finally, identify your hidden challenges: What obstacles make it hard for you to get great work done? 

Here is what it can look like when you answer these questions (based on the responses of some of my executive coaching clients): 

“I’m a catalyst. I make things happen when nobody else can. I think in innovative ways and take decisive action to ignite progress when there are roadblocks. I can take a subtle insight or a grand plan and piece things together. Sometimes I get distracted from priorities and my impatience with structure slows me down. At times I just don’t ask enough of the right questions to identify important considerations.”

Or it might be go something like this:

“I’m a producer. I get the job done no matter how difficult the task. I crank out lots of good work. I see what’s needed to keep progress going, and I’m skilled at spotting talent and delegating responsibility. I link strategy with execution effortlessly but too much change in a short period of time can frustrate me. When I’m rushing I can be impersonal and forget about the importance of nurturing good relationships.”  

Take these three steps to go on the offensive in 2015. Align your purpose with a team and organizational goals, conduct a real-time analysis of your performance gaps and show the true value of what you deliver on a consistent basis. The bigger your upside, the greater your leverage.

You can take my free assessment to see how future-proof your career is right now. 

Related: 4 Keys to Coping With Career Change