What do you think is holding your career back?
That's the question Star Jones, spokeswoman for National Association of Professional Women, asks her audience at the organization's "Spark: Ignite Your Network" National Networking Conference. "Tell the person next to you," she says, and then, moments later, instructs everyone to also whisper it into their hands.
With that, she has everyone "throw it." "When you pay attention to something, that's the direction you're going," she says. "Throw it away. It's gone. You don't have room for it."
Instead, Jones says, we should spend our mental energies envisioning what we want: from our jobs, personal lives, networks, even just our day. Not that's keeping us from them.
Instead, she advocates for zeroing in on seven "I's" for success.
It's a classic interview question for a reason: where you want to be in 5 or 10 years says a lot about your values, as well as your thought patterns for you career path.
So "investigate": where do you want to be, eventually? What do you need to get there? Get specific, Jones advises: "A mentor? More education?" Put it in no uncertain terms what could help move you along your path.
Now that you know what you'll need in your toolbox, how do you go about getting it? It could be interpersonal, like changing your social circle, or as Jones notes, breaking up with your significant other. Or maybe you need to move to a new area, where there are more opportunities for your field. Whatever it is, identify your next steps and take them.
There is a time for reflecting on what's held you back, and that's before you take new actions. If you failed the last time you tried something new, why do you think that was? Did you focus on the wrong things? Hold back? Choose bad allies? It's important to really learn from and process your missteps if you hope to do better.
As Jones says, "Trust the hunch." If something feels right, but you're not sure why, go with it. Alternatively, if you get the emotional "red flashes" (that too many of us tend to ignore when things look good on paper), trust those instincts too.
Just as Jones's exercise at the conference illustrated, concentrating on the negative doesn't really advance your progress towards anything positive. Instead, she says, "Focus on the result you want." You may have to end up making sacrifices (less time with your family as you get a master's degree), but if your eye is on the prize (a better job with more flexible hours down the road), you can't go too wrong.
Still focusing on the positive, think about the things that "give you joy," suggests Jones. While trying to work out a direction to move it, it can be too easy to try to shape a path around avoiding the things you're afraid of, or find unpleasant. But you won't find true success or career satisfaction that way.
Sometimes you don't know what you want. In that case, Jones suggest throwing any kind of experience up against a wall and seeing what sticks.
"Go someplace. Take a risk. Bust out. Do something."
--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com
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