Habits are the unconscious processes that drive what we do. Career habits like all habits can be good or bad. The opportunity is by making small improvements to our career habits, then we can experience huge benefits in the future. These benefits are not limited to our careers and work, they impact our entire lives.
Habits are an important part of how we function everyday
Our brains have evolved to create unconscious process that allow us to focus on other activities. If we didn’t have habits we would have to spend our days constantly planning and thinking about what we need to do.
Researchers at Duke University found that 45 per cent of our everyday behaviours tended to be repeated in the same location almost every day.
The challenge can be we have automatic processes that may not be helping us to thrive in life or work. We may have career habits that are holding us back.
Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. What you repeatedly do ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.James Clear – Atomic Habits
Why does improving our career habits matter?
If we can improve our career habits then we not only improve how we are at work, but how we are outside of work.
Career Wellbeing is how we feel about our job today, our career prospects tomorrow and how our work is helping us achieve what we want out of life. Research from Gallup has found Career Wellbeing has a huge impact across our lives.
“People with high Career Wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.”Rath and Harter, Wellbeing: The 5 essential elements, Gallup 2010
The secret to changing habits is patience, and patience pays off in the long run
We’re probably all at least vaguely familiar with ‘compound interest.’ For most of us it conjures memories of school maths classes.
If not, here’s a quick refresher:
Compound interest takes your money (the principal), calculates interest and reinvests this interest earned by adding it to the original principal. The result? In the next period interest is earned on the original principal and the interest you’ve just accumulated. And so, it continues.
Simple, but effective. The concept is seriously powerful and has the power to transform anything over a period of time.
Einstein himself called compound interest the ‘8th wonder of the world’. Warren Buffett calls compound interest the “single most powerful factor behind his investing success.”
When it comes to our career, the same rule applies. Take the time to make regular improvements, to identify gaps in our skill set, learn new things or even strengthen the skills we already have. We will find the results to be worth the investment.
1% improvement everyday
Imagine we made a 1% improvement in our life each day for an entire year. 1% of a day is 14.4 minutes. Doing this for 365 days will result in our life having improved to almost 38x our starting level. 38x is no small feat. And for only 14.4 minutes per day, it’s pretty miraculous – and extremely doable.
“The money that money earns, earns money.”
– Benjamin Franklin
What would you do if you were 38x better at something than you are today? Where could that lead you? What job could you have? How content and fulfilled could you be?
For most people, it isn’t the concept that they have difficulty getting their head around, it’s the motivation.
At my gym, for example the key reason they find men joining the gym is a recent break up with a partner. The break up is the impetus for change.
People are less likely to make change if they are comfortable or if they are scared, because doing something different requires energy.
If we already have a job, for example, our key focus may not be our development. We have what we want: a job. But what we miss out on is actively working towards becoming 38 times better.
5 steps to start changing our career habits
1. Get started. Now.
Investing in our 20s is better than investing more in our 40s. While it is never too late to start, the time wasted in getting our act together is improvement never realised.
2. Find the why to stay motivated.
Understand what is important to us to stay motivated. Finding our why is key to overcome the challenge of regularly working on our Career Wellbeing. If our why is to earn more money to buy a house for our family, then that’s a powerful reason to keep us on track. There are tools and resources that can help us find the why and build a plan to achieve what we want.
“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.”Simon Sinek
3. Keep accountable and on track with a professional network.
We may pay for a gym membership or PT to keep us on track with our fitness goal. When developing a new career habit find an accountability buddy to stay on track. The accountability buddy could be a friend or a work colleague.
Our networks are key for our career habit to develop. They are going to be a great source of motivation and opportunity for our career development. Check-in regularly with networks to get a sense of what is happening.
4. Keep skills up to date.
It is about being aware. What are our skills and how is our industry evolving? Think about whether the work we do is interesting to others and what we can do to make our skillset more appealing.
5. Sell what we currently do.
This is about cultivating our brand. What is our pitch? Get clear on what it is we do, what we want and how we are going to get there. It can be as simple as refreshing our CV or Resume on a regular basis so it is aligned to our goal.
Sounds like common sense? The challenge is actually doing it!
Don’t wait for a perfect plan or for circumstances to force change.
Start – decide to get better at something and go from there.
Changing career habits to improves you health and wellbeing, and it is within our control.