A career is an unpredictable journey these days. Economic uncertainty and global competitors require a new perspective. No longer is your career a linear pathway to success. Career growth demands an attitude shift in order to see beyond the obvious choice for advancement.
Like most people, early on in my career I sought to be successful, and I measured success based on the number of promotions and raises I got. Needless to say, the earlier years in my career were very structured and predictable. In fact, I soon found myself following a fast-track career path.
Over time, I realized that I’d had to sacrifice many of my natural leadership characteristics during this stage of my career. I found myself becoming a leader in the industry that I served, but not proud of who I had become. This was a defining moment in my career. I had fallen into a trap that could have led me to regret my choices years later. After this wake-up call, I changed my attitude about what mattered most. I focused on staying true to my identity and my unique immigrant perspective. That perspective inspired me to take a non-traditional approach in the next stage of my career and helped me find greater significance as an entrepreneur and a thought leader.
My career has taught me that attitude is everything in finding growth and meaning. You can’t wait for others to define your career. Here are three ways that attitude drives career growth:
1. Allow adversity to work in your favor
The key to managing adversity is focus. Zoom in on the adverse circumstance and you will see no opportunity. Zoom out, and many will come into view. For example, today’s job market appears bleak, but if you step back, you will find that opportunities are everywhere. The difference is that you need to create them yourself. The job market is going through a course correction as new business models are emerging in many industries. Do you understand yourself well enough to identify the business model and industry where you best fit? Take calculated risks and learn to earn serendipity in your work. In the end, adversity may make or break you, but it mainly reveals you.
2. Encourage peer feedback to define what makes you great
Too often in the workplace people would rather tell you what you want to hear rather than give you honest feedback. Since most of us are lucky if we get an in-person quarterly performance review from our boss, getting weekly or daily feedback from peers can be crucial to accelerating your growth.
Early in my career, I frequently asked trusted peers for feedback after they saw my performance in three different situations: An internal staff meeting, a client meeting, or a presentation. I’d ask them to answer four questions:
- Did my contributions advance the company’s objectives?
- Were my recommendations effective?
- Was I too aggressive or disruptive?
- Did I ask too many questions?
Peer feedback helped me learn a lot about myself and how my leadership style was perceived. Peer feedback taught me to change my attitude in order to become a more effective listener. It ultimately changed my approach to my career and helped me set new standards for what I wanted to achieve.
3. Enable yourself and your future
You are the only one in control of your career. Your boss used to be an influential voice because she would serve as your advocate, but in today’s marketplace, you are competing against everyone, including your own boss. The marketplace is changing so fast that new positions are being created to support the changing needs of your organization. That means it’s more important than ever to find creative ways to enable yourself. In other words, don’t wait for others to tell you what to do. You must take the initiative to define your own future. Here are a few tips:
- Act a level up: If you’re a director, act like a VP. Polish your executive presence. Watch how your boss makes decisions.
- Get discovered by your peers: Be a community-minded leader. Lift people up. Own your own success and the success of others.
- What got you here will not get you there: Always be a game-changer. You must continually find innovative ways to advance your thinking and your impact in your work. Invest in yourself and in the right people.
Take a careful look at the field of career opportunities that surround you. You have a choice to play in that field at a time when the ground rules for success are being rewritten. Your attitude will ultimately be the defining factor in the outcomes you achieve.
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© 2012 Forbes.com