How To Achieve Your Career Personal Best

Posted July 30, 2012, by Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

There’s never been a better time to reflect on your own performance – your career performance, that is. Are you fighting fit and achieving your goals, or have you lapsed into professional complacency? Are you performing at your best, and do you have a plan to get where you want to be?

Any elite athlete will tell you that only a small proportion of what they do relies on natural talent and ability; the majority of their achievements result from pure hard work, determination and discipline.

The rest of us may not be destined for the podium, but we can still aspire to be the best we can be within our chosen arena. That means setting goals, striving for excellence and continual training.

Whether you’re on the starting blocks of your career or are already well on your way, these helpful tips will ensure you’re on track for professional success.

Set your goals

Ever feel as though you’re trudging along with no real purpose or direction? It’s a truism to say that if you don’t set goals for yourself, you’re never going to get anywhere.

Many people experience a sense of career disillusionment at some point in their lives.

Goal setting can serve to recalibrate your focus and remind you of your original career aspirations. For top-level athletes and successful business people alike, setting out a clearly defined goal and plan of attack can help you pole vault your way to the top.

Whether it’s to one day sit in the leather upholstered CEO’s chair, complete that arts degree or do that fitness course so you can change careers, setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation.

Setting your goal is the first step – then it’s just a matter of mapping out the steps to achieve that goal. No matter how big or small, organising your time and resources around a series of objectives will help boost your self-confidence as you see your progress and edge closer to achieving your personal best.

If visualising your career 10 years down the track seems all too daunting, it might be useful to break your goals down into smaller targets. A good place to start is with the SMART mnemonic, often recommended by sports psychologists.

S – specific
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – rewarding
T – trackable

Setting your goals around these five basic principles will help you remain focused, positive and realistic. It’s also important to remember to periodically review your goals to ensure you remain on course. If you’ve ticked off ‘gain my Six Sigma Black Belt certification’, then it’s time to think about what’s next. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself tearing ahead of the competition. 

Do the training and get fit

It goes without saying, but practice makes perfect. Whilst elite athletes devote countless hours to physical fitness and technique, there are several less gruelling ways that you can get ahead in your career.

Some form of initial training and qualification will kick-start your career, but don’t think it ends there. Ongoing professional training and development will supplement your experience-based knowledge, broaden your skillset and propel your professional advancement. Education is the key to unlocking your potential and refining your expertise. Think of it as a chance to rehydrate in the marathon pursuit of career success.

Regardless of your field, nothing could be more important than keeping up-to-date with evolving industry practices and standards. This entails continual professional development in the form of in-house training, workshops and seminars, completing a diploma or perhaps doing postgraduate study. Thanks to the convenience of online study, you can now do many courses and degrees by distance, so you can upskill and retrain while maintaining your full-time job.

Is it time for you to step up and take on board a leadership role within your organisation? Then consider enrolling in one of the many project management courses on offer. Or perhaps you’re looking to ascend that little bit further up the corporate ladder? An Executive MBA will help you on your way.

Whatever your industry, continual self-assessment, training and a healthy dose of perseverance will keep you on track to achieving your best.

Find a coach 

They say that behind every great sportsperson is an even better coach, and the same can often be said for career high achievers.

Coaches can take various forms. An experienced industry leader can be an invaluable source of guidance, insight and first-hand knowledge. Take the time to foster a professional relationship with a career mentor, and you’ll be racing off the blocks. Your mentor could be your boss or other senior personnel at work, or someone you meet at an industry networking event. It could be a LinkedIn contact who you can email for advice, or even a personal friend or family member who you can bounce your ideas off, who can provide wise counsel. It could also be a professional career coach whose job is to train people for success.

Beyond providing unparalleled expertise and inspiration, a career mentor can act as a conduit for reaching out to new contacts and expanding your networks. A conference invitation here and a few handshakes there, and before you know it you’ll have a bank of valuable contacts to call upon – all of whom have the potential to help guide you through the sometimes tricky obstacle course of your career. Just remember to return the favour whenever you have the chance.

Many universities now recognise the value of career mentoring, and have established programs to nurture professional affiliations while you study. It can also be worthwhile asking whether your employer has in place any mentoring programs, as many organisations are more than happy to pair you with a senior employee/mentor.

They might dish out a bit of tough love every now and again, but a well-utilised career coach will have you clearing every hurdle on the way to achieving your personal best.

Go for it!

If you’ve noticed career fatigue starting to kick in, then following this simple regimen will have you kicking goals in no time. Using a combination of realistic goal setting, persistent training and the occasional helping hand, you, too, can reach your personal best and achieve more than you ever thought possible. You just have to go for it!

The final key to fulfilling your potential will be to make sure that you’re not the only one who knows your worth – don’t hide your light under a bushel! Whatever your achievements, you won’t get the job you deserve unless you can showcase those achievements and present yourself in the best possible light.

That means you’ll need an impressive resume that highlights your track record and all the great skills and qualities you have to offer. 

Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

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