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The secret of a great career – is you

Posted on from Patrick Forsyth, author of "Detox your career"

Patrick Forsyth suggests that career success is rarely down to good luck (though it is said this is why others are successful). You can and must make it happen.

Career planning

Pundits agree on one thing about the future of the work environment – it will be uncertain. The workplace is now competitive and those in it inherently vulnerable. You cannot guarantee yourself career success, but you can positively influence your prospects; indeed surely want to make time at work as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.  

John Lennon's line: Life is what happens while you are making other plans encapsulates a painful thought. There is perhaps no worse situation than looking back, saying: “if only …”. 

So, in today’s work environment, with no rigid, preordained career ladder to follow, careers need planning: but how? There is sadly no magic formula. Details need working at. First you must know what you want, and this needs some systematic self-analysis. 

Career stages

There are four useful stages of thinking:

1. Assess your work values: here you should consider factors such as having a:

- Strong need to achieve
- Need for a high salary
- High job satisfaction requirements
- Liking for doing something “worthwhile”
- Desire to be creative, travel or be independent or in a team.

2. Assess your personal characteristics: are you a risk taker, an innovator, or able to work under pressure, and how do such characteristics affect your work situation.

3. Assess your non-work characteristics: factors like family commitments, where you want to live and your attitude to time spent away from home.

4. Match your analysis to the market demands: consider realistically how well your overall capabilities and characteristics fit market opportunities. If computers, say, throw you, then you either have to learn or avoid areas of work demanding computer literacy. 

Having carried out the above exercises, you can now set clear objectives; the old adage that if you do not know where you are going any road will do, is nowhere more true. Then, aim high.

You can always trade down, but may be more successful than you think and must avoid missing something not because it is unachievable, but because you don’t attempt it.  

Managing your perception at work

Your achievement of Results is also influential. Unless you deliver, you are unlikely to be judged able to cope with more, and promotion and new opportunities may, rightly, allude you. But there’s more. For example: asked to manage an important project, someone may have every necessary characteristic, do the groundwork thoroughly and devise a sound plan. So far so good. Then they present to the board. 

If they are nervous, unprepared and it proves somewhat lackluster, what happens? Do people say: “Never mind, it was a sound plan”? No. More likely they question the ideas themselves, perhaps putting the plan on hold or dismissing it. And what happens next time? They are never considered, with obvious impact on their career. 

Active career management: skillsets

* Presentation and business writing
* Numeracy and computer skills
* All aspects of managing people
* More general skills such as good time management.  

Communication skills and often creativity too, are vital. You must recognize what career skills can help you and ensure that you excel in them, focusing too on processes and aiming - and organizing - to benefit from such as job appraisal and development.  

The path to success

The active careerist relies not on good luck, though will take advantage of any that occurs (their planning and positive attitude ensuring that they can do so). Most often successful careers do not just happen; they are made. Recognize this, take action and see career success as something you create.
Patrick Forsyth, author of "Detox your career"

Patrick Forsyth, author of "Detox your career"

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