Monday, September 19, 2011

Career Smart: Advancing your Career by Working Smarter, Not Harder

by: Sherri Thomas, Author and Career Coach

It's easy to think that people who are successful are just plain lucky. Plum jobs and career opportunities fall into their lap. But the fact is, successful professionals encounter just as many obstacles and roadblocks in their career as anyone else.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Bill Gates was put on trial in 1998 for creating an alleged monopoly with Microsoft, and even President Barack Obama lost his race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000.
So how did they bounce back (and bounce forward!), and more importantly, how can you bounce ahead in your own career?

The technique is what I call being "career smart". That means making choices, decisions, and taking risks every day with the purpose of advancing your career.
Being career smart is NOT about accepting whatever job is handed to you, but instead it's about finding and creating opportunities that energize and inspire you. Below are three strategies to help you be career smart and achieve a career that fills you with purpose, meaning, and passion!

Get into a career where you can thrive (not just survive!)

It's impossible to thrive in a career if you're just going through the motions at work. If you're walking around like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, then others are sure to see you as someone who is tired, bored and gloomy. To bounce ahead, you’ll need to be in a career that challenges you, allows you to flex your professional muscles, excites you and keeps you energized!

Think about what kind of work you want to be doing. Identify three key ingredients you need in your career to be happy and fulfilled such as leading teams, working on creative projects, developing new technologies, etc. Once you've defined the three key ingredients, then seek out opportunities and do whatever it takes to drive your career in that direction.

Find your value, find your voice
Everyone has experienced a few setbacks in their career such as a lay-off, poor performance review or passed over for a promotion. We need to get over it! We need to give ourselves permission to learn from the experience, let it go, and bounce ahead.

The key to moving forward is to focus on the value that we bring to an organization. Identify your key strengths, skills and career successes. This is the value that you provide to clients or organizations. Be confident in the value that you offer, and share that value in your networking opportunities, interviews and at work with your manager and senior leaders.

Be open to possibilities

I love the funny saying, "If you want to make God laugh - tell him your plans."

One of the biggest mistakes I ALMOST made was declining the privilege of serving on the American Marketing Association's National Council. I narrowly was only looking at it as another volunteer opportunity that cut into professional and personal life. Fortunately, a mentor helped me see the bigger picture which was a tremendous gift that could strengthen my leadership skills, deepen my marketing expertise, broaden my professional network, and advance my career ten fold. (After accepting the position and serving just one year, I was named President of the AMA's National Council which advanced my career up to the 10,000 foot level.)

Be assertive, and aggressively seek out new career opportunities
Give serious consideration to each and every possibility that comes your way. Never decline an opportunity without seeking advice from colleagues whom you trust. Whether you're considering a new assignment in your current organization, or a completely new career, you’ll want to first answer the questions:

• "What could be the best possible benefit?"
• "Could this help me learn a new skill or strengthen a current skill?"
• "Could this be a stepping stone to help me achieve my ultimate career goal?"

Successful professionals are not lucky. They are career smart. They make choices, decisions, and take risks every day with the purpose of advancing their career. So step up, branch out, and start being receptive to new possibilities. There are always opportunities around you. You just have to grab them, do your best, and hang on for the ride!

Do you want more helpful advice on job searching or career advancement? Become a member of the Fresh Start Community of women today: Membership gives you exclusive access to all of the exciting & interactive workshops.

Sherri Thomas is founder of Career Coaching 360, an international speaker and author of "Career Smart: 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand" on Amazon’s TOP 10 LIST for personal branding books. Career Coaching 360 provides career planning, management coaching and leadership development to help professionals change careers quickly and easily. Connect with Sherri at and on her website at, where you can also grab a free Career Analysis Package.

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