It is the end of another calendar year and I could not but share the underpinning lessons that have helped me thrive in my career journey in this year 2019. These lessons are principles that cut across life, can be used at whatever level and you can find them relevant as you prepare for 2020.
Invest in yourself always
I find it impossible to talk about my 2019 without talking about self-development. Believe me, it changed my career forever. I observed that your employer and superiors will only be willing to invest in your growth when they see how serious you are. There is an adage in my place that says: how you carry your luggage determines how others will carry your bags for you. At the beginning of the year, I had a self-development plan to take on the minimum, a course/training/conference per quarter. You can do that too or even more. There are lots of free and reasonably priced, yet relevant resources out there.
Personal branding is not a myth
The workplace is continually evolving to be relationship-driven and being in the right network is being surrounded by people who are ahead in your career. Developing a personal brand makes it easier for you to network as your value proposition becomes ‘obvious’. Personal branding is about telling your story how you want it to be heard, recognizing your strength and unashamedly owning it.
Ask intelligent questions
From the meetings and conferences I attended this year, I noticed that I gained a better audience and created a memorable impression in the hearts of senior-level persons each time I went with an intelligent question to ask. This works like magic. It has helped me gain access to quality relationships. Don’t be that person that meets a senior colleague and asks vague questions like “how did you get here”. Ask direct and intelligently articulated issues.
I remember walking up to a panelist after a conference, and I asked her how she made herself indispensable at the workplace, given that she said she had previously worked in the public sector during her panel discussion. She painstakingly answered me – probably as a reward for my perceived keen attention during her session.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Ask questions. Ask for what you consider yourself to have earned. Honestly, the worst that can happen is to get a no. And a no is not going to make your current position worse. If anything, it would probably highlight what you can do better. Please do your research before asking – it helps you gain confidence. I remember asking one of my bosses to include me on a project he was working on, but before going, I read the last report and exposure draft the committee had issued. Also, ask humbly and articulately.
Be willing to move on from unsuccessful applications
We all, at different times in our lives, will need to submit one application or the other. Be it demand for visa, job, scholarship or course/training. The truth is, they will not always turn out successful. While accepting rejection can be daunting, we must remember that it happens to the best of us and we can move on from it. Unwillingness to move on can cause you to miss out on other opportunities staring at you in the face.
Collaboration is sometimes the way forward
There are things I was able to get done this year simply because I partnered with the right person. I had written an academic paper for an organization to publish, after a while, it was not released. I began to make efforts for it to be published in my institution’s quarterly magazine. While I was making enquiries on how to go about it, a senior colleague walked up to me and asked if we could co-author. I gladly said yes because I knew she was bringing in her wealth of experience to see the work published – which is way better than it lying about in my laptop.
I understand that trusting people with your ideas and work can be challenging, but there are some good ones out there who want genuine collaboration. Don’t be the one who would instead do nothing than collaborate. I have learned to see collaboration as a win-win. Two good heads are better than one.
Be mindful of the habits you cultivate, particularly your disposition to work
I learned that how you handle the little things says a lot about whether bigger things will come to you and how you will handle them when they arrive. If you are not diligent with 10, you will have difficulty controlling 50. This particular lesson reminds me of a quote by Zig Ziglar: “you don’t have to be great to start, you have to start to be great”. I learned to be diligent when things were not rosy. Diligence brought rosy things my way and handling them has been quite a smooth ride.