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How to Take Ownership of Your Career

Developing an impressive career – the kind everyone wants – requires taking ownership of it.

The foundation of every noteworthy career is personal accountability. Developing an impressive career – the kind everyone wants – requires taking ownership of it. Simply put, it’s a responsibility that cannot be pawned off on others.

Sadly, people seldom do this. Most are either lackadaisical about their career or inclined to rely on anyone willing to bear that burden — employers, parents, relatives, or friends — to make it happen for them.

Don’t get me wrong, a helpful hand is helpful, so if one is offered, accept it. I have more than a handful of people to thank for my career: a pastor who believed God had a plan for my life, a recruiter that was convinced the skills I developed in preparation for ministry were transferable into a business development role in the staffing industry, a manager at a bank who taught me leadership skills, and a co-worker who thought about me when she had the idea of starting a business. Still, what you make of your career, regardless of the contribution of others, stands and falls with you.


Take Hold of the Wheel

Career heroes grab hold of the steering wheel with two hands and don’t rely on others to get them where they are going, wherever that might be. Putting yourself in the driver’s seat allows you to point your career vehicle in whatever direction you want it to go. If you know what you want to do for a living and are willing to do what it takes to make it happen, then no backseat or passenger seat drivers are required.


Don’t Follow Paths, Create Them

Career heroes don’t necessarily follow their employer’s predetermined vocational path, comprised of annual reviews that may or may not lead to changes in salary, position, and title – in other words, work that slows ascent, if at all, up the proverbial corporate ladder. They’d rather be masters of their destiny. They follow Emerson’s advice, who said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”


You Are Not Alone

The list of those who have taken ownership of their careers is as innumerable as the grains of sand on a shoreline. To list all of them by name, the famous and lesser-known, is impossible. But here are some worthy of consideration: Mother Theresa; Mad Money’s Jim Cramer; Dr. Kent Weeks, the archeologist who discovered the largest burial tomb in Egypt; Paige Mycoskie, founder of Aviator Nation; Barack Obama, and Derek Jeter. Each, in their own way, took hold of the steering wheel of their career and by doing so maintained some control over their destiny. (Please note: I did not say “complete control.” Only the egomaniacal think they’re in total control.)


What Should You Do?

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not happy with how my work life is shaping up” or “There must be more I can do to make my career stand out, or I need to get my career back on track,” and you’re now ready to do something about it. If so, consider the following three Rs, listed in no order of importance:



Reject all excuse-making and refuse participation in the blame game. Accept the fact that you are where you are in your career because of the choices you made. Stop saying you can’t catch a break and that others have all the luck – make your own. Don’t worry about limited connections, education, and talent – more of each can be acquired, if you apply yourself. Choose not to whine about your lack of experience – instead, do whatever it takes to obtain more of it. Quit blaming people and problems for your career shortcomings – pointing the finger at people and problems prevents progress; it only pushes the pause button on becoming who you are meant to be, and it puts on the backburner what you are meant to accomplish.



Recover your vision for your career. It is not uncommon for employees to lose sight of their career aspirations. Corporate America, and workplaces in general, can be like a maze, an enclosed structure with lots of dead ends, dark halls, and towering walls. Finding cheese, as in rewards for time spent at work, can be a struggle. Your scenario is not unique; everyone faces similar challenges as they work to build a memorable career. Take the time to remind yourself of your career dream and regain possession of your guiding vision.



Remember that the career maps we draw for ourselves are meant to be modified; first sketches are rarely final. Even skilled archeologists revise their maps, and the best map makers use an eraser as much, if not more, than the pencil itself. To help with map design and redesign, archeologists use surveying instruments known as theodytes, with a rotating telescope for measuring horizontal angles, to analyze and re-analyze landscapes. This allows them to see angles and dimensions that escaped prior observation. In an effort to take responsibility for your career, it helps to take a fresh look at your employment topography and edit your map where necessary.


Everyone is afforded an opportunity to construct a noteworthy career. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to take the time or effort. Taking responsibility for your career can be scary, knowing that at the end of the day, you only have yourself to applaud or accuse for how it turns out. But you can do it. Start now: reject excuse-making, recover your original vision for your vocational life, and remember you can always make adaptations as your career evolves.


Chris Fontanella founded Encore Professionals Group, a professional services firm specializing in identifying and placing accounting and finance candidates in temporary and full-time positions. He previously served as Division Director for Robert Half International and Client Service Director for Resources Global Professionals. Prior to entering the staffing industry, Fontanella spent years studying theology and preparing for ministry, having received his bachelor of arts degree in New Testament Studies from Oral Roberts University, and his master of arts degree in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Jump-Start Your Career: Ten Tips to Get You Going, and Tune Up Your Career: Tips & Cautions for Peak Performance in the Workplace. Learn more at chrisfontanella.com.


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