Invest in Yourself - Page 2
With very little time you can build your skills, improve your performance, and enhance your opportunities
Posted Mon, 03/22/2010 - 11:12
What’s your plan for the rest of the day? What’s on the slate? Do you have other meetings this afternoon? What about tomorrow? The next day? What’s the one biggest thing you hope to accomplish at work, at least before the week is over? How about sometime this year? What has to happen for you to be successful? What can you do to help that happen? What we’re talking about here is having a strategy. Chances are your library has a strategic plan someplace. Look around. Top shelf, maybe, way back, behind the microwave-oatmeal packets? If you’re lucky, your library not only has a plan but also uses it. With a plan, success is more likely; after all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? And action needs to be planned.
What about your career? Do you have any strategy at all? Let me tell you something you may not believe: Even a 30-year career will go by in the blink of an eye. You’re going to open your eyes one day and you’ll be at your own retirement party. When they hand you the mike, what do you want to be able to say? Will it be “As soon as this one job I’ve got my eye on opens up, I think my next career step will be to apply for it.” Or, will you say “I may not have gotten every single job I wanted, but I did reach the important goals I’d set along the way, so that I’ve been able to accomplish what I think are the really important things.”
When you think about your mission, you should be seeing the big picture of what you want to do in your working lifetime. You’re not going to jump from wanting to make an impact in public libraries to wanting to become a concert pianist. While surely your mission can bend a bit, it should unwaveringly move you closer, year by year, to the person you want to become and to achieving the professional contribution you want to make.
One of the most damaging things that can happen to any boss’s productivity, initiative, and, most basically, attitude is to allow herself to move into a mission-ignore phase of her career. Unlike the perhaps better known issue of mission creep, where targets are constantly changing, this individual shortcoming is usually brought about by a combination of lack of attention, frustration, or even fear of the unknown.
Throughout your career, you’ll likely be faced with many decisions, with many bumps in the road, around which you’ll have to navigate, and with many roadblocks at worst or speed bumps at best. There’s an easy way to stay on course when this happens: Have a career strategy and stick to it.
Always know your career’s mission. Clarify it. Post it on your printer or carry it in your purse or wallet. Look at it every five years or so and make sure it still makes you smile or intrigues you. From that mission, make all of your other career decisions. Start each year by naming at least two or three accomplishments you want to achieve before New Year’s Eve. Then spend some time with those ideas. Spend enough time that you’re excited about them. Stop before you get jaded by them.
Following your plan
Make a plan to achieve the goals you’ve set. Write it down somewhere. Show it to someone. There are probably several smaller steps you can take to help you achieve the accomplishments you’ve identified. Every three months or so, do a spot check to see where you are in your progress. Then, when the year wraps up, find out why you fell short in some areas. If those goals are still important, learn from the previous year and make the next one better.
Your goals should change a bit from year to year, depending both on what’s available for you to do and what’s happening in the professional marketplace and in your own library. Did your boss change? Then perhaps you’ll have to rearrange your goals. That’s okay, though, as long as you stick to your overall career mission.
So at the end of each year, when you’re cleaning out your files, maybe writing evaluations, or just setting up your new calendar, add this one critical step in your own strategic career development: Set your professional goals for the coming year again. Pull out your career mission statement and check to see that your goals are still aligned correctly, and then you can start making plans to implement your strategy with all options available to you today—and tomorrow.
Don’t forget to check in at least quarterly throughout the year. Whether you can tell statistically that you’ve accomplished something or whether you need a much less empirical measurement to be sure, you have to stop and check. Measure where you are. Measure your progress and celebrate your successes all along the way. In that way, year 10 will look better than year 5 and year 20 will feel great compared to year 12; and so on, right up to your carefully calculated last day.
And one more very important thing to remember about this plan: Be prepared to amend it whenever necessary. “Change is good until it happens to you,” reorganization survivor Cheryl Teresi tells us. In the October 2007 Library Worklife she offers us a warning that “In the same way a daily commute becomes automatic, it is possible to drift through uninterrupted routine without effort or reflection. When you hear the news that your work situation will be changing or reorganizing, stay positive! Who knew? What’s next? New opportunities are always within reach!”