Want a better career? Surprise yourself!

Picture of a watering can growing a new path, as an analogy for growing your own careerI want you to think back to a time when you surprised yourself.

Specifically, the last time you tried something new – got out there, out of your comfort zone and challenged yourself a bit.

When did you last learn something new about yourself, expand your horizons and develop in new, maybe unexpected ways?

Maybe you discovered that you loved running, after swearing off it all your life. Maybe you got hooked on diving, after a short trip away… or found that you really enjoyed salsa and tango, after humouring a friend by going along to an event…

The examples I’ve given here are all mine. Effectively, they catalogue some ways I’ve grown – in areas and ways I never could have anticipated – across my life to date. I’m sure you can think of your own examples; we’re all continually developing.

What’s this got to do with your career? Potentially, everything.

Personal development and career development are intricately interwoven…

Firstly, because our careers often grow out of chance developments.

We meet someone at the running club, get talking, and lo and behold, they know someone who’s looking for someone for a new role – someone with exactly your skill-set. Just like that, a new employment opportunity emerges.

Or your partner in the salsa class works in a field that you’d never heard of; they have a job you didn’t even know existed. Suddenly your world just expanded – new avenues open up… maybe for you, maybe for someone you know.

Sometimes a new experience sows a seed – starts an interest, that becomes a passion… that becomes a new career. Meeting other people in that field, we realize that yes, it’s possible to make a living doing this – or to add it into our repertoire, our portfolio, and expand our skills.

Great careers also require a growth mindset – a willingness to keep learning.

Sometimes it’s the skills we develop through interests that benefit our careers.

Maybe co-ordinating a volunteer group translates into management potential, or a class on presentation techniques or web design helps us to better sell our product, services – or self – to others.

Even just trying something new can open your mind, spark creative thought and build the belief that you’re capable of much more – across your life and your career. After all, careers are living things – they, like you, need change to grow and develop. The ripple effects can be huge.

Just as your career affects your life, your wider life also impacts your career. 

If you’re happy in your job, consider how you can augment that. What you do outside of work can boost your energy, develop your skills and build your networks. Keeping actively engaged out of work can expand your circle, raise your profile and take your career in new and unexpected directions.

And if you’re unhappy at work? Take a look at the rest of your life…  

The more unhappy or stuck you feel, the more important this is. 

If you’re disengaged at work, you need to actively re-engage out of it… to avoid slowly sliding into inertia. The more your energy’s sapped by a boring, meaningless or stressful job, the more crucial it is to balance your working week – to surprise, stretch and re-energise yourself out of work.

Pick a club, an interest, an event… Make sure you keep meeting new people, developing new interests and learning new skills. Keep the flame alive.

Stretching and surprising yourself is a win-win for your life, and your career.

So, if you want more from both… what are you doing to grow?  

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