By Megha Bhatia

Ask most people what gets in the way of career success and you hear a familiar litany of excuses or complaints:

  • “I don’t have enough time.”
  • “I’m not creative.”
  • “It’s my co-workers!”

There’s many more, but you get the idea. The first step is to recognise your excuses as career-traps, as barriers to getting you to where you want to be. It could be really tempting to accept status quo, but whatever your situation, it’s important to make strategic plans and go after what you want.

Let’s think about the tenacity and persistence of history’s greatest achievers – the Benjamin Franklins, Da Vincis, and the Marie Curies of the world.

When I was growing up and becoming familiar with their biographies, one thing became pretty clear to me – that despite the challenges they faced, these achievers took empowerment into their own hands.

And today, as we face perhaps our greatest turmoil and the strongest headwinds to our career growth, it would be apt to take a few pages from their playbook and take the wheel to our own career growth.

Here are five specific ways you can do this in 2021:

1. Identify Your Areas of Improvement

In my experience, the best way to do this is to step back regularly (say, twice a year) and honestly ask yourself questions about how you’re doing and what you can do differently. Sometimes, it’s tough to take a look at one’s own performance and be able to self-assess objectively. If you’re having trouble jotting down meaningful points, ask a colleague you trust to give you truthful and direct feedback. It’s surprising what a little self-assessment ever so often can do to identify areas of growth.

2. Position Yourself to Make the Greatest Contribution to Your Organisation

If you simply keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll end up getting the results you’ve always had. It’s time to step back, ask yourself questions to gain key insights about which initiatives will help your department, team, or organisation the most. Once you identify them, step up and dedicate your time and energy to make a difference in the area you’ve selected. Reskilling and upskilling are imperative, and they are your responsibility. Gain new skills to contribute strategically to your organisation and see the big picture.

3. Create a Plan for Conscious Growth

Learn, develop, and stay engaged. Sometimes despite identifying the skills we need to develop, we fail to establish a plan for growth. I recommend you take some time and create a 52-week plan (one year) to significantly improve your skillset by pushing your own boundaries. Write down a list of books you want to read and training courses you’ll take during the year to improve your skills and raise the bar. Your expertise will help you become a natural problem solver for higher-level challenges within your organisation.

4. Network Online 

 2020 launched most companies into crisis mode and while we’ve all been working hard to live up to its challenges to date, one aspect of many people’s career development that had certainly taken a backseat was building new relationships. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take advantage of the multitude of opportunities available to meet the right people by joining groups related to your industry on Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp, and even scheduling short casual Zoom meetings with people you haven’t caught up with in a while.

5. Become a Team Player 

If Sally from your department is always trying to bring you down – well, it’s time to put petty rivalries aside and take the high road. Good leaders become great when they learn to manage colleagues with different personalities, so take improving your relationship with Sally as a training ground for facing bigger challenges you may face as you climb the ladder of success.

2020 has been a rough year for most organisations and individuals, and we must position ourselves as leaders contributing to the greater good. It is in times of crisis that leaders are made and if handled correctly, perhaps you can make 2021 your year to shine.

I hope that these tips help you to begin reflecting on your aspirations and taking tangible steps toward them. This year make it your mission to empower yourself. Step out of your own way, stop sabotaging your success, and exit your comfort zone.

I’d love to hear from you on the ways you’ve been developing yourself professionally. If you need help identifying your key skills and areas to develop, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the experts at Informa Connect who can help you chart out your training plan.

Download the Training calendar for 2021 here.

Today, upskilling yourself is a strategic decision to maintain your competitive edge. The face of business has changed, and jobs have radically evolved. Simply “going with the flow” will not work in 2021. Taking your career progression in your own hands is imperative.