5 Steps to Dictating Your Own Career Path

5 Steps to Dictating Your Own Career Path
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
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I was fortunate to have a father who discovered my unique talent even before I did.  My Dad knew how to guide me so that I could experience my own self-discovery even when my workplace did not. Unfortunately, a lot of talented people in the workplace do not have someone like that in their lives and have become jaded by others that are envious, disrupted their goals, and never had their best interests at heart. As a result, they have stopped believing in themselves and instead only listen and act upon what others need from them – for the benefit of others rather than their own advancement.  This explains why so many people would rather be accountable to others rather than think for themselves.

It also explains why leaders have become followers and lost their identity in the process. Dreams are broken, momentum is lost, and progress slows. As a result, people become skeptical and earning their trust is difficult – fueling animosity, remorse, and anger. That’s what happens when you stop focusing on those things that matter most to you and what you believe in and allow life to pass you by.

As you strive to remain relevant as a leader, business owner, or entrepreneur, here are five steps to make sure you don’t allow the marketplace, and what others want you to be, dictate your career destiny.

1. Don’t let negativity disrupt your goals

The only person that stands in your way – is yourself.  Don’t ever second-guess your ability and capabilities.  Life is about confronting constant disappointments.  Not everyone will value you or understand why they should.  Rather than get frustrated, take a moment to understand their different perspectives. Write these down and create a journal; perhaps you will find a common thread over time as to why you are being negatively judged.  Appreciate all feedback, whether good or bad – and learn from it. But never let it disrupt your focus, attitude or motivations.

2. Avoid those who are envious

Most people spend their lives battling the gulf between assimilation and authenticity. They struggle with being more of what others want them to be rather than what they seek to be themselves. Envy has the ability to cloud your mind and make you question your own intentions. Don’t let envy define your future or sway your aspirations. Dealing with envy is oftentimes a validation that you are on the right path towards achieving your aspirations – an indicator that you are evolving – and as such you will be confronted by people who are not. 

As you begin to build momentum, you will know who has your back and your best interests at heart. When you detect envy, navigate around it so it doesn’t become a distraction.  The key is to remove yourself from it quickly before it clouds your decisions and slows your progress.

3. Surround yourself with those that have your back

Stay away from leeches and loafers (the envious ones) and learn to gravitate to the leaders and lifters (those who genuinely have your back).  In business as in life, you can’t go after success alone; you have to surround yourself with people that have your best interests at heart. They are the ones that will be the most objective about telling you the truth and guiding you in the right direction.

The types of relationships you have are indicative of your level of success.  If you associate yourself with those that pull you down, rather than lift you up, you will find it difficult to evolve and to achieve your aspirations.  In the end, you must be a good judge of character – so that you can make the right decisions between the relationships you choose to invest in long term and those that don’t add any real value.

4. Don’t be misguided by an ignorant mindset

Never let the ignorance of others misguide you – or assume that someone who has an important title or works for a large company has all of the answers.  Oftentimes, they know a lot less than you might think.  

For example, think of those who tout their accomplishments and act with a sense of entitlement, as if they made the investments with their own money, assumed all of the risk, and were the mastermind behind a particular success story. I’ve learned that many executives have an artificial power that is being lent to them by the organization (or brand) they serve. The position and role they assume has the power, not necessarily the person occupying it. With this in mind, never stop testing your ideas and ideals – or start letting other people’s ignorance get in the way of your own career aspirations.  

5.  Work smarter and harder than everyone else

Get your hands dirty and learn to work harder than your competitors so they can never outsmart your efforts.  Be courageous and take well thought-out chances. Allow risk to be your best friend.  Aspirations fade when people are tempted to give up and stop trying. It’s much like the person that has a new year’s resolution to assume a healthier diet but can’t stay away from the temptations of fast-food.

Success isn’t easy, significance even harder.  To achieve both, you need to stay focused on the goals and aspirations you seek to achieve. You need to become a subject matter expert, know your competition, and understand why people have failed in the past with similar ambitions.  If you do your research, you will know everything you need to know to earn the credibility and respect necessary to break down barriers of doubt, as you begin to build bridges of hope and see opportunities previously unseen.