Working On Your Career vs. In Your Career – What is the Difference?
If you have ever spent time in an entrepreneurial role, you have likely heard the phrase “working on your business” (versus “working in your business”). Working on your business means investing time in activities that will build the business over the long term, such as marketing, streamlining of activities and professional development. While these activities may serve your immediate clients, they also are critical to assure that your business is headed in the direction that you determine will best position you for growth. In fact, a crucial part of working on your business is figuring out where the future growth lies, aside from how to achieve it.
Employees at companies, as well as new graduates, often do not have the lens of working on their careers as well as in them. In fact, a large part of my work with my own clients is helping them understand the importance of also lifting their heads up, rather than always keeping their heads down. To rise to the higher-level (and more interesting) roles, you need to lift your head above the fray of everyday life and activities to see the bigger picture. We know this intuitively, but we are often too busy to stop and do it.
In addition, it is only the fortunate few who are encouraged to think beyond the box. In a minority of workplaces (and sometimes only for a minority of employees in them), leadership is expected and part of one’s contributions is to develop that presence and state of mind, which can only be achieved when there is time and space to work on developing that goal rather than letting the days go by consumed by urgent deadlines and ill-defined projects whose benefits have not been fully vetted.
Instead, we are often taught in school and tacitly (or openly) encouraged in jobs to keep plugging along, rather than being strategic about where to place our efforts. We move from academia where assignments are determined by a professor or instructor to the workplace where tasks are doled out by bosses or leadership teams.
Due to this constant source of new projects from above, it is not hard to understand why many people go through their careers expecting the decisions to be made for them, rather than seeking out leadership and decision-making opportunities themselves. I often call this “gotta make the donuts” after a commercial by Dunkin’ Donuts in which an beleaguered store employee kept running back to the store every few hours so that his customers (you and me) could have fresh donuts to eat. How different are many of us in our jobs, running from task to task, so harried and hurried that we almost forget why we are doing what we are doing?
A large part of my work with clients is helping them lift their heads up, rather than always keeping them down.
In yesterday’s post, I shared that there are 10 weeks until year end. I encourage you to spend a meaningful amount of uninterrupted time – and at least one or two hours – this week or next thinking about how you will spend them.
In the rush of holiday parties and vacations, it is tempting to go on autopilot, with the chief goal of just getting there, making it to year end, rather than actually achieving something meaningful in the time until the calendar turns over to the next January 1. You may have a rush of New Year’s resolutions, but don’t let this time be lost time. There’s a lot you can achieve even before January 1. Here are some ideas:
- Set up 3-4 networking events or activities in the months of November and December
- Write an article on a current topic in your field
- Line up a public speaking event or, better yet, give one
- Finish ONE project that has been nagging you all year
- Start ONE project that you can (and will) complete by year end
- Take the first step in a project that can complete by mid-year
- Attend a conference that is meaningful to your future
- Learn a new skill that you need now or to grow in the future
- Update your resume
- Find a new mentor or sponsor who can help propel your career
- Strengthen an existing relationship by a few acts of giving and kindness
- Help mentor a younger person in whom you see great potential
When working on your career, it is not enough to just do something. Choose the best idea based on what will bring the most benefits to your career. If you don’t know what that would be, you have just identified your greatest area of need – figuring out what will benefit you based on where you want to take your career next (and, possibly, determine where exactly that is). Can you do that, or make significant progress toward that goal, by year end? Yes, but only if you work on it!
Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, is available on Amazon.com. Her website is at www.annemariesegal.com.
Images above from Adobe Images.