Career advancement: Build a plan that limits stress

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Career advancement: Build a plan that limits stress

Career advancement can produce intense work stress. Learn ways to advance with less stress.

The times when people worked for the same company until they retired are a thing of the past. People are more mobile. Few live in the same place all their lives. Access to education is better, and people have higher expectations of what they want out of life. And since people live longer, they can pursue several different careers during their lifetimes if they wish.

If you want to transfer to a different position, move up the corporate ladder or change careers, charting your career path can help you do so with less stress.

Moving across or up the corporate ladder

Moving on to new challenges is a natural part of working life. You can transfer to a different position where you currently work, or gain the skills and experience you need to apply for a position higher up the ladder.

Hints to help:

  • Do your homework. Find out where your company is going and where future needs might be. Read the company's annual financial report and trade journals. Make an appointment with a human resources professional at your company, if possible, to discuss future opportunities.
  • Let your intentions be known. If you have a comfortable relationship with your supervisor, let him or her know that you're interested in building skills to help you advance in your career. Supervisors typically know the type of employee the company looks for and may recommend you when an opening becomes available. Keep in mind that you won't get a recommendation if your supervisor doesn't know you're interested.
  • Find a mentor. Whether it's your supervisor or someone outside your department, having someone mentor you on your career journey is an invaluable asset. A good mentor will do more than stroke your ego. He or she will help you avoid setbacks and unnecessary stress by looking critically at your goals and how best to achieve them.
  • Own up to at least one weakness. Be bold. Identify one thing that would help you do your job better or improve your relationships with your boss and co-workers. A weakness isn't necessarily something you're doing wrong. It can be something you simply need more experience or confidence in. Whatever the case, improvements you make now will move with you from job to job. Enlist your manager's support and work on it. You'll get his or her attention.
  • Take on new challenges. Hear about a new project through the company grapevine? Find out about it. If it matches your skill set, ask your supervisor if you can work on the project team or take the lead. If you get the assignment, go the extra mile to do a good job.
  • Broadcast your accomplishments. But don't brag. Simply take control of the way co-workers think of you. Here's an example: You meet the director of another department on the elevator. She or he asks you how things are going. Instead of answering "fine," use the time to mention a project you're working on or a recent accomplishment.
  • Keep your eye on opportunities within your company. Check job postings often. Also, let people outside of your department know you're upgrading your skills and would consider a transfer if an interesting position came open. Take a look at areas in which your company has needs and see if you have some talent or skills they could use.
  • Take advantage of on-the-job training. Most companies offer free group training in computer skills and aspects of management. After you complete them, be sure to list them on your resume.

Changing careers

It's not unusual for people to start second careers after they retire or just to stretch their abilities. You'll need support from your family if you return to school, continue working and want to be successful. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Make an appointment with a career counselor. Using standardized testing, he or she can help you determine the career that's right for you. This will avoid wasting time preparing for a job that's not well suited to you and prevent future work-related stress.
  • Gather support. Make sure your family supports you, especially if your plan involves moving to another city or a reduction in your income. Doing so now can help you avoid future stress and conflict.
  • Develop your plan and go for it. After you determine what your ideal job is, find out about the skills, experience and education you'll need to get there. Find out how much money it will ultimately cost you and if it's worth the risk. Then map out the steps and set short-term goals, along with your long-term goal of switching careers.
  • Be realistic. A healthy dose of realism will help you maintain your sanity if you work while you're completing an undergraduate or graduate degree. For example, if completing an M.B.A. is what you need to do in order to teach business at the undergraduate level, don't expect it to happen overnight. You've got lots of studying to do, papers to write and tests to take.

One step at a time

Moving up or across the corporate ladder or changing careers can be daunting. But your long-term job satisfaction is worth the effort. You'll accomplish your goal with less stress if you carefully map out all the possibilities, line up your support system, and take advantage of opportunities to show your skills. Then move forward one step at a time.

Last Updated: 10/16/2006
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