Making Career Development a Habit

If you’ve mastered a routine of flossing your teeth (almost) every day, then you should have no problem making career development a habit!

If you’ve ever been to the dentist, you know that flossing is really important – something you’re supposed to do once a day.

I have a good friend who has a different strategy. A month before his bi-annual dentist appointment he flosses diligently, with purpose. At first it is uncomfortable for him but eventually his gums get used to it. Every time, he sails out of his appointment with a clean bill of oral health. And then, he doesn’t floss for 5 months. Though I can’t remember how we got on the subject of oral hygiene, when he told me about his flossing strategy I was pretty shocked – and happy that it worked for him. For now (and probably forever), I think I’ll stick with my daily routine.

For many musicians I talk to, they do career development similar to how my friend flosses – only when its urgent or when there is some kind of looming evaluation. Basically, many artists get it all together when they need to have something to show. For example, undergraduates are usually great about seeing their advisors or career counselor as graduation approaches, and I’m sure most of us have rushed to create a resume for a job application deadline.

But what would happen if we treated career development like daily flossing instead of the scramble to have healthy gums so our dentist appointment goes smoothly?

A problem with my flossing analogy is that most of us floss out of fear – the reward we seek is typically avoiding the agony of dental problems as best we can. However, the rewards reaped by a regular career development practice are not only much greater and more inspiring, but the process can be enjoyable as well.

A regular career development practice will keep you on track with your goals. But perhaps more important, it should keep you questioning yourself about what your goals are. How do you monitor change and growth within yourself and how can you use that information to change course?

And beyond serving as the activities that help move your career forward, there are added benefits to building these habits – if you use them to build awareness and self-reflection. Here are just a few:

Re-affirming that you have choices.

A career development practice, above all, is an affirmation of the fact that you have a say in your future. You get to decide what you will do and how you will make use of your skills. You need not be a victim of your life or your career path. What do you like about where you are? What don’t you like about where you are, and how can you change it?

Learn your dreams.

What do you value? What do you want? Are your dreams yours or are they someone else’s? Regularly setting aside time step away from the minutia of life and think about the big picture – your big picture – has a powerful impact on your future. It will influence your thinking and your actions, big and small.

Learn your patterns.

Start observing how you stand in your own way. Career development, as in, taking action to further your professional goals, is a common battleground for many of our inner obstacles. Heard of impostor syndrome? Perfectionism? That judgmental voice in your head? You’re sure to meet it here. A career development practice can create the structure and support to navigate and move through those challenges.

Changing course.

You are not stuck where you are. You can pivot, within the arts, outside of the arts – you get to choose. Use the same tactics to get to the dream career of right now, to the new dream career in 10 years (if that’s where you want to go).

Of course, everyone’s career development practice will look different. However, we encourage you to go beyond doing only the outward facing things you should do (resume, biography, promotion, building relationships and mentors) and to add in some time for self-reflection.  What would have to be true about the career planning process for it to be a joyful experience for you? If you can answer that question thoughtfully and then create the environment to make it a reality, you efforts will be rewarded.

It all goes back to how mindset dramatically impacts our thoughts and actions. If we are in a state of clarity and ease, then great insights will come to us. And, taking the insights you glean from self-reflection and applying it to your materials or other outward-facing efforts, will impact how you feel and what you do.

Ready to commit to your career development practice? A great place to start is by creating a mission statement – this is something we require of all of our clients and students.  Check out our course, Mission into Action, to create your own and learn how to use it.

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