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Take Control of Your Career

You dream about a bright future for your career. But getting from the job you’re in now to the position you’d like to be in can seem daunting, especially if your hard work isn’t recognized and you've passed over for promotions.

Advancing your career is possible, no matter what your current circumstances. But you’re the only one who can bring about the progress you hope to see.

Take a proactive approach:
“Rather than waiting for their dreams to magically come true, women should work to actually turn those dreams into reality,” says Angie Morgan, co-founder of leadership consultancy Lead Star. “Our careers are our responsibility. It’s up to us to achieve our dreams.”

“Women sometimes miss out on career opportunities because they don’t take a proactive approach to their own career development,” says Carrie Ballone, administrator of the Professional Women’s Network at the accounting firm J.H. Cohn. “They often mistakenly believe that if they keep their heads down and work hard, their managers will naturally recognize their accomplishments and potential. This just isn’t true. Women need to articulate their strengths and quantify their accomplishments.”

Morgan and Ballone suggest the following steps toward success:

  • Set short- and long-term goals. Begin by asking yourself where you see yourself next year and even five years from now. Once you have answers to those questions you can begin to put a plan in place that will serve as your roadmap to success. The plan should include milestones that will help you keep focused and stay on track.

  • Be realistic. Acknowledge that your success and failure is your responsibility. If your goals are realistic and achievable, then the only thing preventing you from achieving them is you.

  • Don’t go it alone. Enlisting support from others is key. Once you have established your goals, communicate them to those who can help you achieve them. Because none of us operates in a vacuum, communicate openly and honestly with your family and other people in your life who will be affected by your lifestyle changes. The more you involve people into your goals, the more support you’ll receive.

  • Stay confident. Don’t let fear zap your confidence and limit your progress; take action. Once you start to experience success on your way to a better career, you’ll naturally become more confident—and others will notice. They will regard you as someone who may be ready to take on additional responsibility.

  • Look for ways to grow. Seek opportunities to try new things: within your organization, within your community, or through networking and professional groups. Volunteer for projects and committees. You can broaden your perspective of the many possible jobs out there for you by networking with people beyond just your own department at work. Don’t limit yourself—there are men and women who may have critical pieces of knowledge or experience that you need at different times.

As you change your life to incorporate new pursuits like enrolling in training classes, attending professional networking events, or earning a graduate degree, you’ll need to sacrifice other activities to have enough time and energy to pursue your career goals. Ballone says, “There are many worthwhile activities that vie for our attention. Prioritize opportunities with your lifestyle and determine what will work for you. If we continue to say ‘yes’ to things that we really don’t want to do or that we don’t have the time to do, we reduce our quality of life in the present and in the future.”

Women at J.H. Cohn who participated in a Leading from the Front book club found the motivation they needed to approach mentors in the company’s other departments and gained valuable guidance as a result. According to Ballone, “For example, one of the women in the tax department wanted to move to the audit group. After starting the book club, she took action and reached out to one of the audit partners.”

Don’t forget to include your manager in your career development plans, says Morgan, because he or she can help you identify ways to grow within your current organization. “When discussing your goals, it’s important to reassure your manager that you’re extremely committed to excelling at your current role and to solicit feedback on your current performance. This conversation is a great catalyst to discuss the future,” she says. “You should tell your boss that you’d like to continue providing value to your company and in order to do so you’d like to receive additional levels of responsibility. Invite your manager into a dialogue on what he or she feels is a great next step for you on your professional development. Then ask his or her perspective on short-term and long-term goals.”

No matter what challenges you encounter on your journey, Ballone says, don’t give up. “Your dreams are worth pursuing. The only one who can determine how high you can go is you.”

This article is used by permission of Lead Star, www.leadstar.us