5 Ways to Achieve Your Career Goals in 2020
Mary Crane shares ideas for getting ahead in the New Year—and beyond
Have you made your resolutions for the New Year (and the new decade) yet? Is one of them to get a new job, or move ahead in your current career?
Mary Crane travels around the country talking to students, new entrants to the workplace, their managers, organizational leaders, and anyone else who wants to know how to succeed at work.
She’s been featured on TV’s 60 Minutes and quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among others. Last month, she shared her wisdom at Touro College Graduate School of Technology’s Career Night.
Here, she outlines five ways to reach your career goals in the upcoming year—and beyond.
Tech students often focus on mastering hard skills like coding and software languages.
Increasingly, however, employers seek candidates with strong "soft skills." But what exactly are these skills, and how can students learn them?
“A soft skill is anything that’s a non-technical skill,” says Crane. The ability to communicate clearly, manage conflict, negotiate practical solutions with colleagues, bosses, and clients all fall under the soft-skill umbrella—and all are critical skills to have.
“Most people graduating from Touro College GST are absolutely brilliant when it comes to designing a web page, or coding. But even the best coders in the world will be limited in how far they can advance, if they don’t also interact effectively with bosses, colleagues, and clients,” says Crane.
So, how to develop better soft skills? Crane notes, “The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’” She adds, “All of us can benefit from more self-reflection. After interactions with colleagues, bosses, and clients, ask yourself three questions: First, what went right during that conversation or electronic exchange? Second, what didn’t go so well? And third, what do I want to do differently next time to ensure a better result?”2. Build your brand
We hear it all the time these days: everyone needs a personal brand to get ahead. But what does this mean? Is it as simple as having a presence on social media and putting up a website?
“Every student should understand that they already have a brand,” says Crane. “Your brand is comprised of everything you say and post, your appearance, and what you do—or choose not to do—on a day-to-day basis. Consciously choose the message that you wish to communicate.”
Crane recalls the Apple product launches for which Steve Jobs became famous. At each of those events, Jobs wore a very specific brand of sneakers and jeans, along with his signature black mock turtleneck. Wearing these items helped communicate his interest in high-quality design. Sometime during each presentation, he would say, “And one more thing….” According to Crane, this combo helped Jobs build Apple’s brand of elegant, cutting-edge technology.
What are you saying, not just with your words, but with your clothing and your actions? That’s your brand. “Own it. Put yourself out there,” says Crane.
3. Make anxiety work for you
Everyone experiences a bout of angst now and then, but a full-blown anxiety attack can be sparked by an exam, a job interview, or the first day on a new job. Usually, we try to shake it off. But Crane says everyone can use anxiety to boost their performance.
“There’s a difference between anxiety and fear,” says Crane. “Fear responds to a real threat by putting someone into fight-or-flight mode. Anxiety is a response to an imagined threat. The physical manifestations of each are the same and often include pounding heart, sweaty palms, and altered breathing patterns.”
She suggests, “When you start to feel anxious and you don’t know what to do, the best thing to do is something.” By creating a to-do list and tackling one item on it, you start to reassert control.
There’s science behind this advice. Neuroscience, to be exact. Crane explains that anxiety originates in the amygdala, the primal part of the brain where fear and other emotions reside. Activating the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain in which executive functions reside, can help ease anxiety. “If we can help the prefrontal cortex take over, which making a list does, the amygdala will start to calm down.”
So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, get to work: take out a notebook, a piece of paper, or your phone, and start making a list. (You can read more about anxiety on Crane’s blog.)4. Find a mentor
Remember those soft skills we talked about above? Besides self-reflection, Crane recommends seeking input from coworkers, friends, bosses, etc. Ask others how they think you’re doing.
“Seek out lots of people who are willing to give you feedback—people who bring an independent perspective, who will honestly share their perceptions of what you’re doing well and where you can improve,” says Crane. “A good mentor, however, will do even more. In addition to giving you feedback, a mentor can provide critically important career direction.”
Finding a mentor who will challenge you is key, says Crane. Often, we need someone who will tell us when we’re becoming a little too comfortable. The best mentors work with their protégés to set a series of constantly more challenging goals. Look for someone who will help you stretch the limits of your comfort zone,” says Crane. “That’s where all growth occurs.”5. Keep on learning
“You will never go wrong investing in your education,” says Crane. “Every successful professional engages in continuous learning.”
Just a few generations ago, Crane notes, people learned a trade when they were young, and could count on doing that job for the rest of their work lives. But that time is gone. “No matter what stage we are in our careers or our lives, we're now living in a world where continuous learning has become the norm. It is certainly the only way to get ahead.”
To find out more about Mary Crane, read her blog, or contact her, you can go to her website. And if you’re ready to continue your learning journey and take your career to the next level, get in touch with Touro College’s Graduate School of Technology today.
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