Key strategies to power your career

Success in professional life is rarely accidental. It is the result of a well thought out plan carried out to perfection as one moves from rung to rung in the organizational hierarchy.  Here are some key strategies, which if pursued, will give a better control over your career and will make your rise in the organization fairly smooth

Learning to learn: This is by far the most important quality we need when we enter the professional world. We need to learn how to learn. We need to be able to absorb the essence of our task, assignment or project. Any work that we perform we need to know both what to learn and how to learn. We need to able to look above the immediate project requirements and appreciate its function in a holistic way. We need to fully understand the product, the technologies involved, what problem it solves and how it ultimately benefits the end user.

Depth over breadth and vice versa:  If you are in the technical ladder make sure that your swim deep and long. Spend time learning the implications, intricacies and nuances of the technologies involved. Learn to appreciate the various tradeoffs that have to be taken in the work being done. On the contrary, if you are a project or a program manager focus on breadth rather on depth. Understand the benefits and shortcomings of the involved technology and various allied technologies. Understand industry trends and how the project fits in the organizational business plan.

Make the right moves: At every stage one has to be aware of where one is with respect to the goal. We need to monitor and make mid course corrections. It is quite likely that as you move along in your professional life you may want to switch technology domains or shift to management. These are conscious decisions that you will have to weigh and take as you go along. As you grow you have understand where you want to go and how you want to get there. This is the mark of a true leader. We will hit several crossroads during our career. Our decisions should be directed towards our long term goal. Make sure the choices you make contribute to your professional, monetary and emotional accounts.

Look from the other side of the fence:  If you are technically inclined learn the basics of project & program management. Understand and appreciate the challenges of people management. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into a technical-only slot. If on the other hand you are a project manager you must spend time becoming tech savvy. Try to get an all round view of all related technology. Technical people prefer managers who are tech savvy.

Plan for Success:  This is critical for career growth. Make sure you plan for success. In the words of Yogi Berra “If you don’t know where you are going you might wind up someplace else”.  Bring focus to both short and long term goals and work towards achieving them.

Understand and appreciate “Management Speak”:  This is something that is very critical to your career growth. Make sure you understand the jargon that senior management tends to use “for e.g. 10,000 ft view”, “project risks”, ”quality improvement”.   Do not shy away from this type of management jargon. In the early years most of tend to take management jargon lightly. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and understand and appreciate the challenges he faces. It is good idea to understand the direction your organization is heading with respect to other peer organizations

Network: Networking is a critical to your success in the long run. Get to know your peers, subordinates, your boss and his peers. The more you network, the better are the chances of your success. It is imperative that you not only grow your professional network but also keep it well-oiled. You will learn a lot of people skills by networking.  Networking will keep you abreast of all the latest trends in the industry, besides many organizations prefer referrals while recruiting.

Visibility speaks: Success in the professional world depends a lot on your visibility to the top management. Make sure that you help or lead any effort that is organization or at least department wide. It is very important that you grab opportunities to lead. This will not only increase your visibility but will also improve your organizational skills and make you understand the challenges of making things happen.

You will spend close to a quarter of a century in your professional avatar.  Having a proper plan and working towards your career goal is important to both your financial and emotional well being. So ensure that you make all the right moves in your career.

Directing Mental Energy

Thought in action utilizes energy. All kinds of mental activity require mental energy to be performed. All mental activity, whether it is for creating, analyzing, getting worked up or being jealous requires energy.

Since any activity that involves the mind requires energy it is important that we direct our mind into only towards fruitful and beneficial activities.

Whenever we get angry against someone, get irritated or frustrated we expend a lot of mental energy. When we spend a lot of time just getting worked we will feel exhausted after some time. There will be times where we repeatedly relive some situation and keep getting angrier and angrier. We will dwell on some cyclical thought which will enervate us. The energy that is spent in our irritations, frustrations or anger serves no purpose. This will only make us feel drained of energy.

On the other hand if we spend time directing our thoughts towards fruitful activities then the mental energy that we expend will give us some useful result. For example we could direct our thoughts to solving our immediate problems or in learning some new skill that will help us in our personal or professional life. Alternatively we could focus on planning for our future and taking necessary steps so that our path in the future is smooth.

This is judicious use of our mental energy.

But the problem with most of us is that we fritter away our mental energies in petty disagreements, in hate games, in irritations and anger. We do not realize that this sort of mental activity is a waste of our mental resources and will only makes us feel drained after some time.

If you feel angry about something or someone try to see the futility of it and get rid of it as soon as you can.  Do not prolong this feeling. Re-focus your mind on some other useful activity.

Expending energy in wasteful activity like anger, frustration or irritation is equivalent to banging your head against a wall. It serves no useful purpose and we will only tend to feel tired.

So we must learn to avoid any sort of mental activity that serves no useful purpose and direct our mental energies towards creative and problem solving effort.

The paradox of being both firm and flexible

Good human behavior is a paradox of sorts. While on the one hand we need to be firm there are times when we have to flexible.

Right living must be based on the highest virtues of love, kindness, compassion, integrity, humility, tolerance, commitment etc. If we were to base our lives on these values we will find that we have to be supple or flexible at times and firm or rigid during other times.

Take for example the virtues of love, kindness and compassion. If we truly love others or want to be kind to them, then we really have to elevate ourselves several notches to our higher self. Being kind and loving requires that we accommodate any acts of transgression on the part off others. We must be able to accept with a smile any offensive or rude remark. We must be able to return unkindness with love and kindness.

In other words our behavior based on the values of love, kindness and compassion must be like a blade of grass that bends under the weight of water droplet, only to regain its uprightness once the droplet has fallen off. Hence kindness and unconditional love requires in us a tolerance and acceptance of errors. In this situation we have to really supple and large hearted to receive any kind of bad behavior.

On the other hand virtues like integrity, humility or commitment behooves us to be firm in our behavior. We should not flinch in the face of money, fame or fortune. These values of integrity or honesty can never be compromised. We should never allow us to be tempted by quick money, fame or power.

We have to be firm in our resolve to see through any rough weather we may encounter in our lives. We should never weaken in our attitude and never compromise on these key values. In these aspects we need to be like the lotus leaf which remains unaffected by the water droplets on it. The principles of integrity, commitment are true north principles and should remain so through thick and thin.

Hence it can be seen that when we base our lives on virtues of kindness, love, integrity or commitment we need to be both firm and flexible as the virtue demands. It is difficult to do but is the real test of our character.