How are you Shaping your Career?

Everything you do shapes who you are.  Every experience you have shapes your worldview. People can change, but changes are shaped by your past.  

What are you doing today that is shaping your future?  Are you intentional about creating yourself? Competencies and experiences will turn you into your future self.

How intentional are we about shaping our minds for the future?  Most of us are very intentional about building experience for our resume.  But how much thought do we put into building our mindset?

What’s the difference between building your mindset and building your resume?  

Building your experience is output.  When you build your resume or your experience, you are gaining expertise in a particular discipline; management, technology, etc. It might look like this on your resume “I managed a team of 20 people and oversaw $20M in assets.”  

Building your mindset is mostly input.  When you build your mindset you are taking in experiences and learning from them.  You might build your mindset simply by working for a servant leader or managing a team of people with more expertise than you have.  You might take a sales position to get over your fear of networking and learn to ask for the business. You might want to try working for a small company or a large company, or a company with a renowned culture so you can study how they do it.  You might look for a job with people that you want in your circle.

Life is uncertain.  Skills come in and out of favor.  Your brain will always be with you so build one that can roll with the changes.  I have seen the defense industry shrink, programmers jobs get shipped offshore, financial traders get automated, but I noticed that people who intentionally built their mindset had resiliency through these upheavals.  You can do it too.

The first few jobs we hold are formative.  I see young people taking jobs based on salary and brand, but not considering how this job will shape their future.  Who will you meet there that will influence your thinking, both positively or negatively?  Will this job create rigidity in your thinking?

What can you do to build your mindset?

Identify people you want to model.  Look for characteristics you want to build, and find people who have them.  Observe them closely. How do they embody the characteristics you want? Try channeling their energy when you need to draw on that strength.  I’m serious. When I need to be cool as a cucumber, I think to myself “what would my friend Cynthia do or say right now.” Cynthia is the epitome of cool and calm under pressure.  For the briefest moment, I am Cynthia. After a while, it’s part of me and I am just myself.

Once I mastered cool and calm, I found the next most important characteristic or behavior to master and sought out someone who held those qualities.  

If you don’t work with anyone who models the behaviors you want, you may never learn them. This is why nice people who work in backstabbing organizations become backstabbers. This is the only model they have.  If your role models are sharks, you will become a shark. Go find yourself a place where you can learn effective behaviors.  It will make your life better anyway.

Get exposed to new ideas.  I like to read but I realize not everyone is a bookworm.  If you’re not a bookworm go watch webinars, go to conferences, go to a meetup.  Do something to expose yourself to new ideas and new people. Get out of your bubble.  When you hear a new idea, think about how you might apply it to your work.

Let me lift a common burden:  you don’t need to remember everything you learn.  Nope. You heard it, it’s shaping your thoughts. I just flipped through a book a read 10+ years ago I realized that a lot of my ideas were in there!  I didn’t remember where these thoughts came from, but they found their way into my mind and stayed there 10 years later. You don’t need to take notes and write up an action item list.  Just enjoy and absorb.

Include Mindset in your Job Search.  Don’t take a job based on salary or brand alone.  On your interview try to get an understanding of the culture and people that work there.   What types of people will you interact with? What are the people who formerly held this job doing now? Will you have autonomy?  What happens if you fail?

What are you doing to shape your career?  We'd love to hear from you in the comments!