If you’re like many professionals, you’re probably feeling one of the following ways about your career:
“This job is killing me! I need to get out of here.”
“I really need to step up my game. I’m not fully using my skills and strengths right now.”
“I’m ready for my next step. I’m long overdue for a promotion.”
“I’d love to go out on my own and start my own business.”
You’re likely also thinking, “If only I had the time…” As a coach, the number one reason my clients offer for not pursuing their career goals more aggressively is time. They’re too busy with their current job responsibilities. Their personal time is limited so it’s too precious to spend on career-related activities. They’re traveling too often to focus on career advancement.
The funny thing about time is that we all have the same amount of it; we just choose to spend it differently. Nobody has any more time than anyone else. But while you pass days, weeks, and years without ever reaching your full potential, others have decided to make career success a top priority and have achieved their goals.
If reaching your career goals is important to you, time should not be a factor. The time will pass regardless of how you spend it. Would you rather reshuffle some commitments now to make room for the right opportunity? Or would you rather wake up one day, years from now, and realize that you’re still unhappy and unfulfilled because you spent all of your time in the wrong job?
If you take a careful look at your life, you’ll find that you do have time for career advancement. Here are some things to consider:
Stop hiding behind time.
Think back on a time when you did something that you really wanted to do. How did you find the time to do it? Did you need to make adjustments to your schedule? What did you re-prioritize to make it happen? Were you even consciously aware of the shifts you were making to accommodate this new commitment?
Let’s face it, when we really want something and we finally summon the courage to go for it, we find the time. Sure, most of us have legitimate time constraints that require us to make choices, but more often than not, time serves as a convenient excuse not to do something difficult, confusing or scary. It’s much easier to blame a lack of time than it is to face your fears and take action.
Take a moment to reflect honestly on where you are in your career. What is truly standing between you and your goals?
One of the greatest challenges facing professionals who want to advance their careers is lack of clarity. They know they want “more” but they have no idea what that actually looks like.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you want to go on vacation. You’re not sure where you want to go but you want it to be fun and adventurous. You decide to start packing but you feel overwhelmed. You have no idea what to bring with you. You might even get in the car and start driving but you end up going around in circles. If you haven’t clearly defined your destination, how could you possibly plan your trip?
The same logic applies to your career. If you’re unclear about where you want to be, it’s only natural that you feel overwhelmed by the process of getting there. Define your goal first and the journey will be less time-consuming and more efficient.
Take incremental steps.
Taking the next step in your career, whether it be expanding your existing role or transitioning to an entirely new field, can feel like a monumental task. Most professionals tend to look at the big, hairy change that stands before them and decide that it’s just not doable given the competing demands on their time.
Rather than try to boil the ocean, break your goal down into smaller, more actionable steps. Even if you can only realistically commit to a few, short blocks of time per week, doing this consistently will create a cumulative effect. For example, set a goal to send three emails and make one phone call per week regarding your career advancement efforts. You can insert these into your regular routine and, within a short time, you’ll build some great momentum.
When you have limited time, you can’t afford to waste it on unproductive or ineffective career advancement strategies. Rather than engage in an inefficient trial and error approach, find a trusted resource who can help you. An executive coach, mentor, or friend can help you stay focused, fight fear, navigate unfamiliar territory, and adjust your action plan to maximize your success.
There will, unfortunately, never come a time when you feel as though you have the bandwidth to make significant changes to your career. You will always have other responsibilities and pressures that sidetrack you. By following these steps, however, you can take control of your career and create change within the constraints of your current schedule.