When you work for someone else, you are investing in someone else's future; someone else's dream. You are part of someone else's vision. Every document you collate, every TPS report you file, every memo you write... is all working towards the larger vision and mission of the company.
There's nothing wrong with being part of something larger, if that's what you truly want. But even if your goal is to work your way up through the same company throughout your career, you need to make investing in yourself a priority. Even if you aren't interested in starting your own business today, that may change down the road. It will be a lot easier if you've already put the work into building your personal brand and cultivating your own professional development.
If you want to be successful, adopt the mindset that you are 100 per cent responsible for your future, and 100 per cent in control of making your goals happen. The most effective way to do that is to put 'Future You' in charge of your decision making.
Here's how to do that:
Ask yourself where you really see yourself in 10 years.
This isn't an interview. Forget your canned response. Really think about it.
Close your eyes. Imagine yourself living your ultimate, ideal life.
What kind of work are you doing? Are you working for a company, or for yourself? How do you feel about the work you do? How much money are you making? What does your work environment look like? What kind of people are you working with? How do you spend your time away from work?
Live in this vision for a moment. Notice the feelings, sounds, even smells of this ideal future. Assume that energy.
This is your personal goal. This is Future You. This is what you need to invest in.
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Recognize that companies care about your goals... if they align with theirs.
That may seem harsh, but it's the truth. Many companies offer training, education and professional development, but only within the confines of corporate objectives. If that happens to also align with your personal objectives, great!
If not (which is the case for many of us), you need to take charge of your own professional development. If you leave it in the hands of your employer, you'll either stay stuck where you are, or be funnelled down a path that isn't necessarily right for you.
Take responsibility for your future. Future You's existence depends on Present Day You taking control and moving towards your own goals.
Start letting Future You make your decisions.
That energy you felt envisioning your ideal future? Use it to make decisions.
Your boss is offering to send you to a conference that will boost your standing within the company. But there's a networking event at the same time that will put you in contact with people who could really help you start building out that business idea you have.
Which one would Future You choose? To invest the time in your company's vision, or to invest in your own?
When faced with any decision, always ask first, "What would Future Me choose?" That's how you get to where want to go. By making decisions not from where you are, but from that place of your envisioned success.
Build your personal brand around who you want to be.
Your personal brand will be around a lot longer than your current job. Start investing in your professional online presence.
You're likely already active on social media in your personal life, but your online presence has an impact on your professional life as well. You need to be strategic about the image you cultivate online.
Step one is to make your personal profiles private. You're still allowed to have a personal life, but be smart about it. When a colleague, client or partner does a Google search of you (and they will), do you really want the photos from that weekend in Vegas popping up first?
Step two is to build out your professional profiles. This may be restricted to just LinkedIn and that's fine. You can do a lot with LinkedIn. But do make the most of it and take advantage of all the profile elements.
Align your profile(s) with where you want to be, not just where you are. "Software Engineer and Aspiring Entrepreneur" is a great headline. So is "Financial advisor with a passion for graphic design". Include where you are now, but build the bulk of your profile, your personal brand, around who you want to become: Future You.
Connect with people and groups that will help you move closer to your goal. Take part in conversations, post articles and comment on posts that are relevant to what you want to achieve.
Ensure every element of your personal brand, even your profile picture, aligns with that vision of your ideal future.
The final step is to continually maintain and grow your online professional network. A personal brand isn't something you create once. It's something you cultivate, consistently.
No matter where you are, invest in where you want to be
There is always an opportunity to start moving towards where you want to be. Look for classes, conferences, networking groups (on and offline), workshops and speaking events. Seek out potential mentors. Find people who've already achieved what you want to achieve and learn from them. Read books, blogs and ebooks.
If you can't find anything... create something! Start a LinkedIn group or a MeetUp group in your city. Start a blog. Post about your idea, goal or passion.
When you really don't know where to turn next, remember that vision of your ideal future. Remember that energy, that feeling. Tap into it. What would Future You tell you to do right now? Keep asking yourself, "What else is possible?" Future You will thank you.
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