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[Book Summary] Own Your Career Own Your Life: Stop Drifting and Take Control of Your Future

By now, you will have encountered the new buzzword, Quiet Quitting. But if the concept resonates with you because you consider it a way of “getting back” at your employer – hold on for a moment. You will end up hurting yourself more than you will ever hurt your organization.

[Book Summary] Own Your Career Own Your Life: Stop Drifting and Take Control of Your Future

A better alternative is to take control of your career! This book summary recommendation offers effective strategies for time management, networking and nurturing the mind-set to help you accomplish your goals and find fulfillment.

Content Summary

Genres
Recommendation
Take-Aways
Summary
About the author
Video and Podcast

Genres

Business and Money, Career Guides, Motivational Self-Help, Job Hunting and Career Guides

Recommendation

Talent development expert Andy Storch has a clear message: Stop drifting through your working years and start proactively crafting the career and life of your dreams. Drawing on personal experience and a wealth of knowledge gleaned from respected career development gurus, Storch offers a clear, step-by-step guide to setting a vision for and taking ownership of your career and life. You will learn effective strategies for time management, networking and nurturing the mind-set to help you accomplish your goals and find fulfillment.

Take-Aways

  • Avoid drifting and establish a vision for your career by setting goals and identifying your core values.
  • Determine the purpose underlying your goal.
  • Create a practical plan to make your goal a reality.
  • Never fear asking for or receiving help.
  • Find ways to take positive action, even when circumstances seem out of your control.
  • Prepare for the unexpected by engaging in continuous learning and network-building.
  • Embrace professional brand-development.
  • Become more aware of and re-prioritize how you spend your time.
  • Affirmations, accountability and coaching, among other strategies, help you achieve your goals.

Summary

Avoid drifting and establish a vision for your career by setting goals and identifying your core values.

People drift for a number of reasons. In Outwitting the Devil, for example, Napoleon Hill posits that people who drift tend to operate more from fear than faith and are reactive rather than proactive. They conform to others’ expectations – doing what they think they are supposed to do or waiting for someone to give them direction –​​​​​ never giving much thought to how they would actually like to spend their days. Drifters fail to take full responsibility for their lives. They don’t act deliberately to keep moving toward their goals.

“No matter what stage of life or career you’re in, you can always make changes and benefit from being more intentional with your life and career.”

To stop drifting, create a vision of the life you desire. This vision, or goal, can change over time, but you should keep it at the forefront of your mind. Your vision can be modest – spend more time with your family – or grandiose – become CEO of your firm. Your vision guides the direction you want your career to go, and allows that goal to shape your choices. Should you accept that promotion? The answer may seem obvious, but there is no universally correct response to tough questions like these. The answer depends on your unique vision.

To help determine your vision, consider what in your job or career gives you energy and what drains you. Consider alternate careers. Determine the values that mean the most to you – like health or relationships, for example. Note your strengths and weaknesses. With all this information in front of you, and pen and paper in hand, set a goal and draft a plan for achieving it.

Determine the purpose underlying your goal.

Achieving a goal requires sustaining motivation – something you are more likely to do if you have a clear purpose or “why” driving you forward. To take a classic example: Why go to the gym? If you don’t have a definite reason to go, chances are, you won’t. If, however, you know that working out will give you the energy you need to play with your children – something you value – that will bolster your determination to exercise.

The same logic applies to your work. If you don’t know why you go to the office each day, or remain at your job because you are afraid to make a change, you will find scant fulfillment. Your “why” does not have to be personal passion for your job. You might find purpose in a job that enables a healthy work-life balance, or in working for a company you believe does something important or good for the world.

Create a practical plan to make your goal a reality.

A goal isn’t worth much without a plan to achieve it. If Jennifer works in finance, for example, but wants to transition to a career in HR, how should she proceed? A possible plan might include networking with people who work in HR within her current company, external networking events, taking courses or reading books to learn about HR and speaking with her manager about her desired change. Consider your goal, then write down as many tasks you can think of that might help you get there. Make each item into its own small SMART goal with its own individual timeline. SMART goals are “Specific, Measurable, Achievable” (or “Actionable”) “Realistic, and Time-bound or Timely.” Once you establish these sub-goals, make a start on one of them.

“Often, when people set big goals, they get overwhelmed with everything they need to do and then start procrastinating. One of the biggest and best methods for beating procrastination is to start taking action right away.”

SMART goals help you avoid procrastination by providing deadlines for accomplishing specific, measurable tasks. It’s the difference between saying, “I want to lose weight” and “I want to lose 20 pounds over the course of the next three months by exercising four or five times per week and eliminating sugar from my diet.” With SMART goals, the goal contains your plan for achieving it. Get out your journal or planner and turn your list that can help you attain your vision into smaller, SMART goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask for and receive help.

Most people don’t achieve their goals on their own; they do it with help. Why does it sometimes feel so difficult to ask for help? You may worry that receiving help makes you look less able or successful, but most people enjoy helping others, and won’t look down on you for asking. Sometimes, asking for one thing leads to something even better. When the author emailed a contact from business school for advice about shifting to a career in sales, that call led to an unsought but happily accepted job offer at a consulting firm.

“There are so many people and places that can help you on your journey. The biggest key is to get over your ego and stop thinking you should be able to figure everything out.”

Your manager, HR representatives, colleagues, friends, family members, church and career groups, coaches, and instructors are all excellent sources of help – as are books, podcasts and videos from experts. Seek opportunities to help others. Reciprocity engenders goodwill. Unless you have a strong relational foundation with someone, make your requests for help simple to achieve, if possible – something the other person can accomplish in fewer than 10 minutes.

Find ways to take positive action, even when circumstances seem out of your control.

When something bad or unexpected occurs, you may feel tempted to think of yourself as a victim of circumstances beyond your control. While many things in life are beyond your control, thinking of yourself as a victim breeds inaction. Look for the things that you can control. Taking responsibility for your circumstances means avoiding excuses and finger-pointing – both do more harm than good. Start practicing this behavior now: stop complaining about anything and everything for 30 days, and see how you feel.

“The list of things that can happen to us in life goes on and on. All of these are opportunities to either be a victim and blame others (or the Universe) or to take responsibility and leverage the very powerful belief that everything happens for us, not to us.”

A change in perspective helps. Rather than feeling like a bad thing has happened “to you,” frame it as happening “for you.” By considering what an unexpected event makes possible, and what you might learn from it, you shift your mind-set from negative to positive. Set aside your fear of failure and worries about how you stack up against your peers. Embrace the belief that the challenge you face will lead to growth. When the author failed in his attempt to become a top consultant, that experience made him more aware of his strengths and weaknesses. His new awareness opened the door to an unexpected career path. If you make a mistake or if life does not go according to plan, learn from the experience, adapt your plans and move forward. In your journal, brainstorm ways you can take greater responsibility for your life and career.

Prepare for the unexpected by engaging in continuous learning and network-building.

Technological developments are changing the world of work at a breakneck pace. The job of Social Media Manager once didn’t exist; now it’s a staple of the business realm. Keeping up with new trends, innovations and best practices requires an ongoing commitment to learning. Your employer may offer professional development opportunities, but – as with every other aspect of your career – you should take charge of and prioritize your own learning. On the surface, taking time from other to-dos to learn new things may seem difficult. But, much as it behooves a lumberjack to keep his or her saw sharp, it benefits you, in the long run, to keep your skills up to date.

Read blogs, books and white papers; listen to podcasts or audiobooks; take online classes, watch videos or attend conferences and seminars; follow thought leaders on social media or even go back to school to earn a formal degree in a new area. Carve out time in your day or week to make it happen. Put learning time on your calendar, and protect that time.

Like learning, investing in network-building is of paramount importance: These connections provide help when you need it most – as when job hunting – and allow you to give back to others. To become a top networker, be curious about other people. Ask them about themselves and their work. Let them talk about 70% of the time. Find out how you can help them accomplish their goals; the more you help them, the more likely it is they will reciprocate.

“I want the other person to do most of the talking, because then, I get to learn more about them and how I can potentially help them.”

Ask for advice, but don’t offer it too quickly. Ask questions to help the other person uncover answers for him or herself. Pay for membership in the communities where you can meet valuable contacts, including professional associations and conferences. Thanks to COVID-19, the rise of virtual summits has made conferences more accessible and affordable than ever. Leverage Facebook groups and LinkedIn to meet others in your field. Network within your existing organization: Get outside your bubble and meet people in other departments; these contacts may facilitate future projects or provide leads on job opportunities.

Embrace professional brand-development.

Your personal brand encompasses your public, professional reputation: what others think of you. Your brand requires cultivation. Failure to build your brand deliberately and intentionally means letting others define you and what you do. Shine a light on your accomplishments because, more often than not, reputation helps determine whether you get a promotion or a choice project.

“Like it or not, we all have a reputation and a brand; all you get to choose is whether you are intentional about creating it.”

How you present yourself at work and at in-person events is one element of your brand-building. Social media is another. What you post shapes perceptions of your engagement with your career and of your personal and professional development. Post original content via a podcast or blog and share and comment on others’ contributions, such as articles you enjoyed or interviews you conducted. Provide value in what you post: “entertain, educate or inspire.”

Become more aware of and re-prioritize how you spend your time.

Your definition of success and failure should be highly personal. It springs from your inner values, not an external notion of what your life ought to look like. Every choice you make takes other possibilities off the table: If you work all the time, you may earn a lot of money, but will probably have less freedom. You only get 24 hours in a day. Time matters, in many ways, more than money. Are the ways you spend your time advancing your goals? You may feel you don’t have time for what you want to do, but you always find time for what you prioritize. If you don’t have time for the gym, it means you choose to do something else. Study your schedule and make sure how you spend your time serves your goals.

Affirmations, accountability and coaching, among other strategies, can help you achieve your goals.

In addition to strategies like SMART goals, utilize other tools to achieve your vision. One helpful tool is daily affirmations. A useful affirmation reminds you of something true about yourself – “I am worthy and deserving of success” – or reminds you of your main goals. Hiring a professional career coach or joining a “mastermind group” can provide much-needed support and prompt you to push yourself harder.

“One of the biggest things that separate those who achieve big success from those who don’t is action.”

Measure your progress. Use a journal or other written tool to keep track of your goals and reflect on your actions. Prioritize your health, including eating and sleeping habits. Seek out opportunities to help and teach others. Don’t worry about perfection; doing something is always better than doing nothing.

About the author

Consultant, coach, author and speaker Andy Storch hosts The Talent Development Hot Seat podcast and founded the Talent Development Think Tank Conference and Community.

Andy Storch is an author, speaker, consultant, facilitator, and connector. He’s the host of two podcasts, including The Talent Development Hot Seat and The Own Your Career Own Your Life podcast.

Andy has worked with organizations across all industries and all around the world. He has a passion for helping others and is on a mission to impact thousands of lives and make the world a better place. Andy also hosts a conference and community called the Talent Development Think Tank for corporate talent development professionals. Most importantly, Andy is a husband and father, living in sunny Orlando, Florida. You can find him on Instagram and LinkedIn posting content regularly.

Andy Storch

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Andy Storch | Twitter @AndyStorch
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Andy Storch | Email

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