You’ve got to thoroughly enjoy what you do, if not outright love it, to sustain a healthy, happy, and prosperous career. How can you make yourself get up every Monday morning, head into town, spend a good eight to ten hours at the office, fight your way back home, and then do it again for the rest of the week if you don’t love what you do?
Could it be only for the money? Unfortunately, this is probably true for many people. They get a job for whatever reason. It’s not what they want to do, but they’re stuck because of bills and so forth, and then before you know it, months, and then years, start zipping away.
Does Your Career Support You?
Suppose you do love your job, position, and everything about the work you do. You’re making $32,000 a year. After looking at your cash flow for the coming year, you’ve figured out that you’re going to need to be making $55,000 by the year’s end to be able to afford the things your family wants and needs.
You’re doing good work, and you’re certainly due for a raise. Historically, annual
increases in your company have hovered around eight to ten percent for top performers. Let’s see, at $32,000, a ten percent raise would net you $3,200. You’d still be some $19,800 short of your income goal! Through some digging, you find out that no company employee has ever received more than a twenty percent increase in a given year, not even top officers.
So, at $32,000, a twenty percent increase would be $6,400. That would still leave you $16,600 short of your goal.
If you are earning $32,000 annually and you need to earn $55,000, you have to devise a plan so extraordinary that you exceed the highest wage increase that anyone in your company has ever received. Perhaps you could devise a new product or service plan that is so cost efficient that it saves the company oodles of money. Perhaps your company has a bonus plan in which employees submit cost reduction ideas that could save the company millions of dollars. Hmmm…what million dollar cost saving ideas can you derive?
Perhaps you could join the company sales staff and, based on a combination of salary and commission, reach the $55,000 level. If there are no such options within your organization, then whether you love your job or not, you’ll have to look elsewhere to realistically pursue your income goals.
Progressive Goals for Progressive People
Some of the best times to set goals are before and after job changes. Suppose, however, that you’re entrenched in your current line of employment, it’s your chosen path, and you want to thrive at it. What are some goals you can set for yourself in your career area that will sustain you on a daily basis and also on the long road?
Suppose money is not a particularly pressing issue, but the need to keep pace is. Given the rapid pace of social and technical change in society today and its impacts on the marketplace, perhaps you want to establish a goal to become a master of change, a change master, if you will, so that you stay at the forefront of your industry. Such a quest, however, is a bit nebulous. How do you quantify it? What’s the specific time line involved?
What if you’re not a technologically-oriented person, but you are increasingly asked to master various software programs and other technologies. Here are specific goals you can establish to squash any technology anxiety you may experience and embrace technology both at the work place and in your personal life. For example:
* Each week, learn one new presentation or communication tool, particularly those which are already part of existing software packages that you use.
* Read at least one article a week related to communication or presentation technology. The article can be in a computer magazine, a business journal, or your local newspaper. You don’t have to pick a highly technical article.
* Once you begin to feel more technologically at ease, consider subscribing to a technical publication; for example, Wired, PC World, Home Office, Internet Magazine, The Net, Byte, MacWorld, PC Computing, as well as dozens of others, are all available at relatively affordable yearly subscription rates.
* Once a month, read a book related to technology. Again, go easy on yourself. Pick up Nicholas Negroponte’s Becoming Digital or Dan Burrus’s Technotrends, among a variety of other books that put technology in perspective in an understandable, friendly way.
Choose one of the many books on using Internet navigating software, such as Firefox or Internet Explorer. The Alpha and Que divisions of MacMillan Books, a Simon and Schuster Company, have an excellent series called The Complete Idiot’s Guide, covering such topics as the Internet, Windows, networking, and everything else related to computers, among many other topics.
What Are Your Customers Using?
Find out what your clients and customers are doing with technology. Remember years ago, when faxes were becoming commonplace in offices? The first time a client said, “Could you fax it to me?” and you couldn’t, made you think. The fifth or tenth time someone asked you to fax information to them, you had already purchased a fax machine, or were thinking about it. So it is with today’s latest technology. Your own clue about what technology you may wish to use and master is derived from what your clients and customers are using.
Pay attention to what others in your industry, particularly close competitors, are using. Ask people how they’re accomplishing certain tasks, and what works particularly well.
If it helps, join a technology group in your area. The business page of your local
newspaper will list who’s meeting, when, and where. In every metro area of at least 75,000 to 100,000 people, there are PC and Macintosh user clubs, bulletin boards, support groups, and the like. Almost every community has its own newsgroup that can be accessed over the Internet if you simply have the right group name. Form alliances and affiliations with people who know what you need to know, as well as those who are at the same level of technological expertise that you are.
Also look in your local paper for forthcoming technology trade shows and expositions. Again, in any metro area of 75,000 to 100,000 people or more, in the course of a year, there are at least four to six technology fairs where both hardware and software vendors display their latest products and services. The cost of attending such shows is usually free or the nominal price of $5.00 to $10.00. Many of these shows also have specialized seminars which are free with your general admission, or which only require an additional nominal fee.
A Designated Weekday Evening
Rather than attempt to absorb new information during the work day, where you may not be comfortable, designate one night a week when you’ll spend two hours or so learning more about technology, becoming familiar with terminology, and forsaking the world of the technologically disadvantaged.
Whether you read or learn quickly or slowly, it’s important that you have a quiet, uninterrupted space in which to absorb new concepts and explore new ways of thinking.
Remember at all times that others who felt even less comfortable than you were able to master communication and presentation technologies to the point where it became profitable and rewarding for them. You’ll be just fine.
Change is Here to Stay
Mastering technology, and thus mastering the process of change itself, is a challenge that you will face for the rest of your career. Can you conceive of a time when things are going to slow down?
Is it likely that Word or WordPerfect, MicroSoft or NetScape, Lotus or Claris Works are going to stop issuing greatly expanded versions of their software? Is development of applications for the Internet going to go on hiatus? If you deal directly with clients or customers, is it likely that their expectations and demands are going to level off? Chances are, the answer to all these questions is a resounding no.
If anything, the business world will continue to progress, and the need to sharpen your skills is going to grow. Who wants to be in a world where every year for the next forty years change will intensify? Yet, that is the reality of our times, and if one of your long-term and continuing goals is to stay at the forefront of your industry, earn a healthy wage, gain respect from others, and so on, there is little choice as to whether or not you become a change master.
By some estimates, as many as one job in three will disappear over the next few years. As vital as your role might be to your organization right now, it’s conceivable that if the role itself is not a candidate for extinction, it will dramatically shift, merge, be combined with something else, and emerge as something that only vaguely resembles its predecessor. Simply acknowledging this possibility helps you to be more prepared for the future and to set career goals accordingly.
Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
- Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
- Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post
, Los Angeles Times
, Christian Science Monitor
, New York Times
, USA Today
, and Fortune
. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine
as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website www.BreathingSpace.com
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