August 26, 2013
'7 Habits' applied to career development
It's been about 20 years since I first read Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.
I was with a group of friends recently and someone mentioned a topic from the book. That piqued my interest and I pulled it off my bookshelf, only to find the book dusty and the pages yellowed with age (I purchased it in 1990). But as I reread it, I was amazed at how the advice still rings true today -- especially how each habit can be applied directly to career development:
Be proactive. To be successful in your career, you must be proactive in defining what you want to achieve, and then create a game plan for how you'll get there.
Begin with the end in mind. Want to be the VP of marketing or sales? What knowledge, experience, skills or education will you need? Determine the gaps, and then work on eliminating them.
Put first things first. Every day, make a list of the most important tasks you need to accomplish. This will force you to complete critical items first, and you'll realize the trivial things that can be put aside (or maybe even forgotten for good).
Think win-win. This habit will help you find creative solutions to problems and even improve business relationships. As Covey states in his book, "It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way."
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This habit is especially important if you're a manager. Before responding to situations, seek to understand all angles. Look at details as well as the bigger picture before taking action.
Synergize. There's an old saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. During your career, try to create diverse teams. Varying backgrounds and experiences breed unique and innovative ideas, which is often what's needed in today's global economy.
Sharpen the saw. I love this last habit, as well as Covey's example: A person has been trying to saw down a tree for five hours and is getting nowhere. When asked why he doesn't stop and sharpen his saw, he says he's too busy sawing. The same thing applies to your career: If you want to move into higher positions (or a different one entirely), take the time to sharpen your knowledge and skills in the necessary areas.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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