Overcoming Professional Challenges

As the start of a new year approaches, we often evaluate where we are in our career space. Am I growing? Will I have new opportunities to share my ideas? Do my contributions count?

No matter what we do for a living, career growth, at one point or another, will become a topic of consideration. This holds true especially when we find ourselves facing professional challenges.

In just the first two weeks of 2014, I have spoken with over half a dozen professionals about challenges they currently face at work. From clashes with bosses and co-workers, to issues with compensation, or simply feeling a lack of value for job performance, career challenges can become a very big deal. And in most cases, they don’t just affect us at work, but spill over into other areas of our lives.

Here are four timeless tips I believe will help relieve professional challenges, not just in 2014, but far beyond.

  • Let the solution start with you. You can’t control everything. But you can control what you say and what you do. You certainly can control your attitude. Workplace conflict is real, but how you embrace and engage in it plays a big part in how deep it gets. I once had a client tell me he was impressed that I can work with anyone. What he did not know was that I had many opportunities early in my career to learn firsthand how to tackle this seemingly impossible task. In one particular situation, I worked with a client that was never quite satisfied. I easily could have shifted the blame and labeled her a difficult person. But I wanted both my team and her team to win. One day at an event, I pulled her aside and told her I wanted to find ways we could become more aligned. I shared that I respected her insight and would appreciate if we could figure out how to work more efficiently together. She seemed shocked. She later revealed that she did not think our team liked her very much and she was not sure how to relate to us personally. In this particular case, the issue was not really about the work. It was about the chemistry. But the solution came because I was willing to look beyond her and also evaluate me. We not only developed a better working relationship, but still keep in touch after more than a decade.

  • Be clear about your intentions. – What do you want and what do you hope to accomplish? Are you looking for more money? A bigger title? To grow your skill set? Do you need to be liked or receive positive feedback when you feel you’ve done a good job? Understand what it will take for you to be satisfied. If performing my job with excellence and integrity is important to me, it is unlikely I’ll be motivated by more money in an environment where I’m expected to do things that don’t align with my values.

  • Keep your eyes on the prize. In the midst of challenges, ask yourself if you’re performing the job you were hired to do. I can recall years ago my team went above and beyond for a client. We delivered what we believed was tremendous added value to their brand. During an evaluation they gave us a low score on meeting objectives. We were appalled. But when we looked back at the original measures of success, we realized they weren’t completely missing the mark. We had done a great job delivering results, no doubt. The problem was that some of the results we delivered were not tied to objectives we had mutually agreed upon. It was a great learning experience for me.

  • Develop a plan. At the end of the day, the ability to find fulfillment at work is directly tied to having fulfillment in life. There isn’t a place where one stops and the other starts. Having a plan for your career – and your life – provides a set of objectives, outlines intentions, and lends direction on where you hope to be and what you hope to accomplish. Even if things don’t work out exactly as mapped out, a plan supports your sense of purpose. And as the saying goes: when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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