6 strategies to revamp a sluggish career

Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder

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Having trouble making good on that New Year's resolution to improve your career? Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler -- authors of the forthcoming book "Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success" --  offer these tips to put a spark in your step as you climb the career ladder to where you want to be.

1.  Visualize what you really want.

A larger salary? The opportunity to work with high-profile clients? Zero in on exactly what you want. Then, motivate yourself to get it by vividly imagining what can be -- if you make the necessary changes. To aid with visualization, the authors suggest creating a personal motivation statement -- a powerful phrase or two that is meaningful to you and stirs you to stay on track -- and reciting it whenever you feel like slacking off or are tempted to avoid the behaviors that will lead to greater success.

"The first step to changing behavior is to make the distant future more salient, plausible and compelling," Grenny notes. "For example, someone who has the goal to get a raise may have a personal motivation statement similar to the following: 'I would like to see myself as a talented contributor. I'd like to increase my income so I can buy X. I'd like to have the respect and admiration of the smartest people at our company.'"

It also can be worthwhile to visualize a default future, a scenario of what is likely to be if you don't change your work habits. Imagining another mediocre performance review or the pit in your stomach when a co-worker gets the promotion you were eyeing can provide the incentive needed to take action.

2.  Take time for professional development.

Wishing is one thing, action is another. Identify the skills you need to progress in your career. Take classes and seminars accordingly, and read books to expand your expertise. Making yourself more knowledgeable and relevant can open up new opportunities and renew your passion (as well as give others a more favorable impression of your abilities and commitment).

3.  Associate with hard-workers.

Remember your mother worrying about who you hung out with in high school? The company you keep in the workplace can likewise have a negative influence. Distance yourself from the office slackers. The bad attitudes and habits that are keeping you back are likely being enabled, tolerated or encouraged by others. Instead, evoke positive peer pressure by surrounding yourself with hard-working colleagues who share your career goals.

4.  Find a trusted mentor.

A good mentor is encouraging, but also honest enough to tell you where you need to improve. He can help you navigate career development opportunities that exist within the organization and point out things you may not see. 

5.  Put money at risk.

Sure, everyone has been motivated by a carrot on a stick at one time or another. But here's a spin that adds some punch: Set aside a bit of money each week. If you reach a short-term goal, such as turning in a report on time, you can purchase a reward. If you fall short, however, the cash gets donated to a political party you oppose. Ouch.

6.  Control your workspace.

In all honesty, won't you be more likely to actually proofread the chart you brought home if you don't try to do it in the same room as your big-screen television? Make productive habits easier by enlisting the power of your surroundings. If you set your schedule back 15 minutes each time you walk past the water cooler, reroute your trips. If you're positioned near a gathering place such as the mailboxes, request a transfer to a less social location. (And whether at home or at work, turn off electronic interruptions whenever possible.)

Likewise, use your environment to prompt and inspire. An up-to-date calendar, a prioritized to-do list and organized files can greatly increase efficiency and feelings of competency. And don't forget subtle reminders that can keep you on task. A motivational message as a screensaver or a picture of the vacation spot you want to visit when you get a raise can be just what you need to choose productivity over surfing the Internet.

Beth Braccio Hering researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.



Last Updated: 08/02/2011 - 11:15 AM


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