By Dr. Catherine Armstrong
There have been lots of books and articles published recently about ‘things to do before you die', ‘places to see before you die' and so on. In a similar way, this article takes a light-hearted look at five career milestones to achieve before you hit retirement age!
1. Find that dream job, apply for it, and get it
For many of us, whatever our age or experience, it is easy to get stuck in a rut. We are essentially conservative creatures and prefer to stay in a job that is ‘okay' rather than dare to go for one that might be ‘brilliant'. We also fear failure; staying in a position that is easy to do seems more attractive than moving to a job that will require new skills or fast learning. It is important to get out of that rut! Achieving your potential, whether through a move within your current industry or a totally new job, can revitalise your career and give a real psychological boost. And if you go for a dream job and end up missing out? Well, at least you tried. You will never look back on your career and say ‘what if'.
2. Work within a team that just gels right
We spend a large proportion of our waking lives either at work or thinking about work and in almost every career - even academia, which is notoriously self-driven - we work alongside colleagues from different backgrounds with different characters and different motivations for coming in to work. The joy is when you find a team that really fits together well. This can provide a social side to work too, perhaps you will meet up outside work hours to exercise or eat and drink, but more importantly in the working environment, it can make coming into work five days a week a real pleasure. Any team will not function perfectly all of the time, but it is worth really trying to find a working relationship that can flourish.
3. Respect your boss and earn respect from your subordinates
As with the last point, this can make the difference between enjoying your job and hating it. Along your career path you will have to deal with people above and below you in terms of salary, position and experience. Take some time to try to make these relationships as smooth as possible, not just for your own benefit in terms of getting a promotion, or getting a junior colleague to do a task that you would rather avoid, but in order to promote harmony and good practice in the work place.
4. Go back to ‘school' and learn a new skill
Whatever stage of your career you have reached it is never too late to develop a new skill or retrain entirely for a new career. Some people find their lives reinvigorated by an opportunity to learn something again. Many of the adult learners I have taught say that learning is wasted on the young and that people with more experience revel in the chance to go back to school and learn again! Of course you have to choose the right subject; computer skills or accountancy or first aiding won't suit everybody but it might just change your life! Even better if your employer supports your efforts and is willing to allow you time off work to study and to pay for your course.
5. Realise that your career isn't everything
It sounds strange but the key to career enlightenment is realising that your career is only part of your life. When you are able to put it in context of your other activities rather than letting your work take over then you can truly start to appreciate your job. With new technologies such as the blackberry and the mobile phone meaning that we can be contactable by email and phone 24 hours a day, many people are finding it more and more difficult to switch off from a working day and enjoy leisure, family or learning time. Stress and other pressure-related illnesses are becoming more prevalent in the 21st century and this is an unhealthy working environment to be in. Make sure you give yourself time away from work to focus on other things; you will find that you might even start looking forward to Monday mornings again!