7 Steps to Take Control of Your Career


My clients often struggle with getting ahead in their careers. The learning is that no one cares more about your career than you do. You must stay one step ahead in pointing yourself to your next position. Don’t leave your career to chance. It’s gambling with your future! If you need support in deciding if you are ready to make a move, contact me. I’d love to have a conversation with you!  401-742-1965. I answer the phone myself, there is no gatekeeper. ~ Mary

by Diane Cobbold

Today’s career-minded individual understands that the cliché corporate ladder has developed a number of broken rungs.

A typical career path is no longer linear but more closely resembles a labyrinth. It commonly takes the shape of lateral moves, special projects, cross-functional assignments—remember “up” is not the only or best way for career progression.

So, why is it, that while your career is one of your most valuable assets, most people are still reluctant to take control of it and expect it to be managed by someone else? They believe their dedication and accomplishments will speak for themselves. Their managers will see what they’ve contributed and they will be recognized and rewarded without any self-promotion. They’ll just sit back and wait. And then they’ll wait a little longer.

The reality is that managing your career is each person’s individual responsibility. Don’t be a spectator to your own career. Step up and become an active participant. While you can’t predict every detour, knowing how to manage your career is the first step.

1. Identify Your Professional Assets. Be knowledgeable of your professional assets. Know who you are and what you have to offer.

  • Develop an inventory of your skills, interests and core competencies.
  • Make note of any skills or knowledge that are weak and need to be improved.
  • Record all significant professional and personal accomplishments and correlate them to your core competency list.

2. Seek Input. Find out how you’re perceived—what do others see as your primary skills and contributions? We each possess many innate skills and traits that we may not recognize as valuable but resonate with others we work with.

  • Actively seek input and advice from peers, subordinates and superiors.
  • Take in-depth-assessments to help understand more about your personal traits, characteristics, values, career preferences and working style.
  • Seek out mentors. These individuals can provide invaluable guidance and support.

3. Know the Marketplace and Your Competition. Whether you’re looking for opportunities to expand your career at your current organization or in a new direction, be aware of the ever-changing marketplace and how it will impact you.

  • What initiatives or strategies is your current employer undertaking?
  • What are the current trends in your industry?
  • Regularly assess the global marketplace. What is happening in the world that could directly impact your business or line of work?
  • Keep current on new technologies that you could adapt into your personal skill set.

4. Shape Your Personal Brand. Take stock of who you are, what you have to offer, and marketplace expectations to help shape your personal brand. Never forget, you are a product. While you may not be as flashy as the new Tesla, you are still a product that a company may buy/hire and you have your own unique set of features, benefits and service offerings.

  • What do you want your brand to represent?
  • What type of image do you want to project?
  • Know what differentiates you from your personal competition.
  • Understand the needs of your audience and the marketplace.

5. Know Your Value. Your value in the marketplace will fluctuate depending on a number of variables. Even the best and the brightest can find they’ve been devalued due to a supply/demand imbalance or a poor economy. Taking into account marketplace conditions your value needs to assess the sum of:

  • your skills (learned, transferrable and innate)
  • life and work-related experiences
  • personal and work-related accomplishments
  • training, education
  • individual traits and characteristics

6. Set Goals and Develop a Partnership. Embed goal setting into your life. Set a combination of short- and long-term goals that challenge you both personally and professionally. One important aspect of goal setting is to actually write them down. Record or post them in a place that you will frequently see. While you want to set as many self-directed goals as possible that don’t heavily rely on marketplace conditions or happenstance, consider striking a partnership with your manager or employer. If you are recognized as a high potential, or rising star in your organization they may be very willing to help you reach your goals if it ensures your employment with them.

7. A Life-Long Process. Active career management is a lifelong practice. It requires us to perform regular maintenance checks to ensure the skills, training and experience we possess is positioning us for the future.

Our careers will take us on a winding, and exciting journey. Don’t begin to manage your career when it’s in jeopardy or crisis. Realize that taking control of your career requires active life-long commitment.

Mary T. O'Sullivan

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, Member, International Coaching Federation, Society of Human Resource Management. Candidate, Master’s Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education, and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area.