The Secret to Career and Life Management
By Nancy Anderson
With fall officially here, it’s a perfect time to conduct a review of gains and losses you experienced this past year. Frequent reviews are the secret of career and life management, since reflecting before going forward consolidates gains, and the learning that follows failures.
“I donít want to look at my failures,” said one of my clients, Laura, when I asked her to review the consequences of choices she made the past year, “It’s too embarrassing.”
“Then you are bound to repeat the failures,” I said, smiling. “Don’t be afraid to examine the results of mistakes, if you learn from them, they turn into successes.”
Tolerance for error is an important quality to develop, as is the ability to correct without self-recrimination. Once you look at mistakes as choices you thought were right at the time, you simultaneously realize you would not make those choices now. Since you are not the person you were when you made the poor choice, why punish the new you?
Like many people who measure themselves by how much they get done, Laura believed if she kept going and going like the Energizer Bunny that would keep her on the fast track at work.† Paradoxically, holding still so she could listen to her inner voice was the solution to her career frustration. But she was afraid that voice would guide her in a direction she did not want to go.
Next: How to create an effective self-review
Effective managers pay attention to voices in the marketplace because customers and competitors are valuable sources of information. When inventory and services are not selling, good managers get rid of them to make room for what will sell.† Unfortunately, outmoded habits are hard to give up because at one time they worked. In Laura’s case, excessive activity distracted her from feelings she did not want to feel, such as anger about not getting the recognition she felt she deserved.
When Laura looked at the choices she made the past year, failures as well as successes, she discovered she did well when she trusted her judgment; failure occurred when she followed her bossís lead. In those cases, she had deferred to his opinion, rather than trust herself.
“I see now that I need to stand up for what I know,” Laura said, after we went over her list of the yearís gains and losses. “I was afraid Iíd be ridiculed or fired, and my next thought was, what would I do then?† But mostly I was afraid my boss was right and I was wrong.”
“Because someone is in a position of power does not mean he or she is an authority,” I said. “Authority is knowing what you are doing, and that comes from experience as well as intuition. Given that definition, you are the authority, Laura, but he has the power. Since he wonít change, itís time for you to change.”
Laura nodded. “Yes, I do. Had I not done this review, I would not have seen that the barrier in my career was my fear of being an authority, but that makes sense. Itís a big shift to see myself in that position. But I’m ready for the challenge.”
A few months later, Laura landed a job as operations manager in a smaller company. The woman who hired her liked Laura’s take-charge attitude.
“She said they needed someone with the courage of her convictions,” Laura said, laughing.
“Well, that’s you, Laura,” I said.
Begin your review of the past year by dividing the choices you made into three categories: Money, Work and Relationships. Under each heading, separate the year into four quarters: January to March, April to June, July to September, and (to come) October to December. Next, describe the consequences of your choices in each quarter. What turned out well? What did not work? To conclude your survey, answer the following questions:
What was the need or desire that motivated my choices?
What did I expect to happen (as opposed to what happened)?
When did I stop and think things through before I took action?
Whose opinions influenced my choices?
When did I listen to myself?
After you complete your survey, you will see why review is the secret of career and life management. The insight you gain into your motives and needs will encourage you to do regular reviews in the future. Like all good managers, you will set aside time to celebrate the choices that worked, and to learn from the choices that did not work. Then you will make better choices in the future.
Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion. Her new book, Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond is available in online and retail bookstores. Her website is workwithpassion.com. Send questions about your career and life goals to firstname.lastname@example.org.