The workplace is ever changing, and professionals looking to maximize their success need relevant knowledge, tools and resources to navigate the unchartered waters of the future. For example, professional environments are more diverse than ever with five generations present and groups formerly seen as “minorities” quickly approaching majority status. Due to the diversity of mindsets present in the United States, successful professionals will need to employ innovative thinking and collaboration to better understand and relate to diverse populations.
Additionally, as the pace of business continues to increase and “leadership gaps” are quickly forming due to the impending wave of retirements, young professionals are being thrust into management and leadership roles earlier in their careers with little to no management or leadership training. Moreover, in addition to retirements, organizations are experiencing high job hopping and turnover rates due to the changing mindsets of younger generations and the ease of accessing job postings and recruiters via the internet. So, what should you do as an eager, highly ambitious professional to navigate these choppy waters to achieve success?
Mindset is everything. Assess your current attitude and reframe your perspective to ensure a positive, growth mindset. Employing a positive, growth mindset will allow you to anticipate, recognize, and pursue opportunities for advancement.
Manage your career. Take control of your career. Nobody cares more about your career and success than you, so take time to think through your career goals and create a plan to accomplish them. Find your passion and be willing to take risks to pursue your dreams and goals.
Acknowledge, be aware, and be ready for barriers. Unconscious bias is unfortunately a natural occurrence for human beings, so be aware of the biases and barriers that may exist so you can anticipate and strategize your way through them. Overcoming biases and barriers early in your career can increase your overall career acceleration and momentum for future success.
Learn about yourself and others. Knowledge and communication can be extremely powerful, especially when it comes to navigating your career. Knowing more about your own communication and behavior styles, as well as the styles of your colleagues, supervisors and constituents, can provide you with tools and techniques for enhancing positive relationships and your success.
Enhance your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and regulate your emotions, recognize the emotions of others and select the appropriate emotion for the situation. As the workplace becomes more diverse with unique mindsets and perspectives, high emotional intelligence can improve your interpersonal, communication and decision-making skills, which can quickly accelerate your success.
Build your brand and manage your impressions. Perception is reality and you want others to perceive you in a positive light. Strategically develop your brand and manage your impressions so others can quickly see your potential and advocate for your success.
Obtain mentors, sponsors and role models. Relationships are key to your success. Developing and managing your network is essential, but more important, building relationships with sponsors who can endorse you can be a game changer. By identifying positive role models early in your career who can serve as examples to guide your future behavior, you can avoid inheriting bad habits from colleagues and supervisors who may not be great mentors.
Pursue professional development opportunities. Stay current with the skills and knowledge needed in the ever-changing workplace and pursue professional development opportunities to stay relevant. Even if funding is not available through your organization, find ways to allocate and invest your personal funds into your development. You should see a quick return on your investment as it relates to your career success.
Build your tools and resources. Anticipate the skills and tools you will need to navigate the unknown waters of the future and work to develop a toolbox of resources to assist you as you encounter new challenges. Read books, listen to podcasts, and build your network. It is better to fill your toolbox with multiple tools than to find ways to utilize one tool for multiple situations.
Take action. Don’t just think about it, do it. Execute your career plan. Be flexible and allow for unexpected changes within your plan. Now is the time.
Navigating the professional landscape can feel daunting, but armed with the proper knowledge, tools and resources, you can not only succeed but also maximize your success. So now is the time, create and your plan and start executing that plan.
Melissa J. Furman, M.S., DBA, is the founder of Career Potential, which helps individuals achieve and organizations succeed. Furman is a faculty member at the James M. Hull College of Business at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga., and Georgia Tech Professional Education Division in Savannah. Her research includes generational diversity, unconscious bias, career and leadership development, emotional.