“Your company owns your job. You own your career.”Earl Nightingale
In my training programs, I cite the above quote more than any other…and for good reason!
These words were originally coined by Earl Nightingale, an “old school” motivational speaker who grew up during the Great Depression and gained notoriety as a businessman and an award-winning radio broadcaster.
I love this quote because it represents a fundamental truth every professional must grasp in order to be successful: You, and you alone, are responsible for your career.
Many years later, in 1997, another man named Tom Peters offered a different spin on Nightingale’s premise when he wrote a (now famous) article for Fast Company magazine titled “The Brand Called You.”
In that article, Peters writes: “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in….We are all CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.”
Essentially, Peters is suggesting a major mindset shift.
Most people who are traditionally employed find this concept a bit odd at first. After all, you have a boss, so you’re not totally in control. He or she may make decisions that affect you at any time.
That’s true for your job, but not for your career.
Think of it this way: In your business (your career), you provide services in exchange for payment. Right now, as an employee, you have one primary client (your organization). However, you are a marketable asset. At any point in time, you can choose to find a different primary client or offer a different array of services or do anything you’d like with your business.
Your career is yours, no matter what, regardless of what your boss does or doesn’t do. You are the one in control. For better or worse, your career goes with you everywhere.
Of course, as any superhero fan knows, with great power comes great responsibility.
To truly leverage the benefits of such a concept, you must first embrace an ownership mindset.
How to Develop the Career Ownership Mindset
1. Invest in Yourself
As an owner, you always want to grow your business (i.e., your career) and make sure it remains competitive in the future. That means, you must care for it. You must work to expand your capabilities and increase the value you offer. To do so, you must invest your own resources—namely: time, energy, attention, and yes, money.
After all, a business owner doesn’t expect his or her clients to worry about the long-term success of the business. That’s the owner’s job. In your career, that’s your job—not your boss’s and not your organization’s.
Sure, it’s great when others offer support and pitch in with some resources of their own. But the investment is really all about YOU. Therefore, it makes sense for YOU to contribute the most.
2. Determine Your Own Path
Business decisions are hard. But, as an owner, no one knows the right moves for you better than YOU. Don’t expect anyone else to tell you what you should do with your career, what your goals should be, or how you should get there.
Again, it can be helpful when others offer their perspectives and insight, especially if they have an interest in seeing you succeed, but the choice is always yours. You are the one in charge of your path.
Too often, people expect their managers to provide a roadmap for next steps. These days, that just doesn’t happen. Most organizations and most professional fields don’t have pre-determined paths. Instead, it’s the individual’s responsibility to figure out where they want to go, develop the skills needed to get there, and advocate for what they want.
If you don’t have clearly defined career goals and a plan to get there, my Build Your Professional Development Plan workbook can help.
3. Take Accountability
Unfortunate things happen in the workplace all the time. Sometimes, you end up in a job you hate. Sometimes, the people you work with are horrible. These things are not uncommon and they’re not your fault. But how you respond to these situations is ALL YOU.
Business owners realize that mistakes happen; the goal is always to minimize the impact when they do. Learn from them quickly and move on. The longer you dwell in a mistake, the more you blame others and point fingers, the more prolonged and painful it becomes.
When in a bad career situation, the worst thing you can do is convince yourself you’re stuck. You always have choices. You might not like them, but you are not a hostage. In fact, you probably have more options than you think—if you’re willing to look for them.
Savvy business owners know when it’s time to push forward, when they need to adjust course, and when it’s better to just cut their losses. You must hone this same skillset in your career. These are hard decisions to make, but that’s the job of the owner.