How To Effectively Own Your Career in 4 Steps (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Owning your career is important for setting your own professional trajectory and preparing for unforeseen outcomes. Taking steps to own your career allows you to improve your performance and adopt a growth mindset. If you're not currently owning your career, learning more about what it means and how to do it can help you determine your professional goals and find satisfaction in your work. In this article, we explain what it means to own your career, describe why it's important, detail the steps you can take to do so and provide helpful tips for effectively owning your career.

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What does it mean to own your career?

Owning your career is becoming your own life manager and implementing strategies to advance your career, and it's particularly important for those working in a space where managers don't encourage you to grow and improve. This includes taking initiative in building your professional brand, setting goals and performing. Owning your career means you're intentional about each action you take, and you're completing your work and tasks with a bigger goal in mind. Those who own their careers strive for consistent improvement and take responsibility for their achievements and shortcomings.

Many companies and organizations set goals for you within their operation. For example, a business may determine a quota for you to hit or certain tasks for you to complete. By only completing these tasks or only hitting the quota, it's likely that your career maintains, rather than growing. Owning your career means taking action beyond the minimum effort to develop a long-term and successful professional life for yourself.

Related: How To Write a Professional Development Plan (With Examples)

Why is it important to own your career?

Taking steps to own your career can bring your satisfaction and success, allowing you to seek promotions and leadership positions. These are some additional reasons to prioritize owning your career:

  • Earn fair compensation for your work: By owning your career, you can become more aware of your value and assess if it's balanced with the compensation you receive. Investing in education, growth and improvement can increase your value and potentially increase your earnings as well.

  • Develop your skills and qualifications: Part of owning your career is investing in growth and education outside of the company you work for. By reading professional books, attending seminars, conducting professional interviews and listening to educational podcasts, you can develop your skills and increase your credentials.

  • Advance to support personal goals: Though owning your career is about your professional life, doing so can improve your personal life and support your personal goals. By gaining more satisfaction at work and potentially increasing your earnings, you may fulfill personal goals like traveling more or supporting loved ones.

  • Prepare for unforeseen circumstances: There are many situations that you can't predict, including downsizing, economic recessions and company closures. If you own your career and develop your professional opportunities, you can be more resilient when events like these occur.

Related: 8 Steps To Overcome Failure (With Resilience-Building Tips)

How to own your career

You can follow these steps to own your career:

1. Reflect on your strengths and goals

The first step to owning your career is reflecting upon your strengths, weaknesses and potential professional goals. If you currently have a job, it's important to consider why you chose the profession you did, if you're enjoying it, if it brings you satisfaction and what you can do to improve yourself. Consider scheduling a time for reflection when you don't have to worry about other responsibilities and it's unlikely that anyone can interrupt you. For example, it might not be best to reflect during your work break. A quiet location like a library or park may help you think.

You can reflect on many aspects of your professional life, including where you want to work, whether you want to pursue additional or more advanced education, milestones you plan to achieve, people you wish to meet and events you want to attend. For example, you may determine that you want to publish a book, speak at an important event or earn a professional award for your achievements in your field. Understanding your aspirations and writing about your reflection can allow you to develop your career vision.

Read more: The Importance of Self-Reflection and 17 Guiding Questions

2. Create a clear personal career vision

A career vision is a statement that expresses your professional values and aspirations, and you can write yours by using your reflection writings from the last step, taking values tests and creating positive statements. You can make a vision board, or a collection of visual representations, depicting places you intend to go, awards you wish to receive and people you plan to help. Using these tools, write a statement that succinctly describes your vision and purpose. Though your career vision is a statement for your professional future, writing it in the present tense can be beneficial.

Example: I'm a leader within my company, introducing innovative solutions that promote growth and progressive action to better the world and improve lives. I encourage my team members to develop and flourish and share my knowledge and expertise at the Global Business Leaders and Professionals Summit. After earning my doctorate degree, I design products and implement ethical purchases within my organization and develop my executive brand.

3. Communicate and seek feedback

Depending on your workplace and relationship with your manager, consider sharing your career vision with them and asking for feedback. You can also develop a professional network and communicate with other established professionals about how they own their careers. Request feedback on your career vision from colleagues, friends, family and those you respect most, as it can help you refine and develop it to reflect your values and aspirations.

Seeking feedback is an important part of owning your career as you take action and create your trajectory, as those who know you most can help you make the best choices. Friends and family can help you through ethical dilemmas and provide support for your professional journey. Consider pursuing a professional mentor in your field or industry who can provide direction based on their experiences and success.

4. Set specific short-term goals

After creating your career vision, assess your long-term goals and use them to set smaller, short-term goals. Doing so allows you to determine specific actions you can take, which makes it more likely that you can succeed. Depending on your personal style and motivation, you may need to set goals and create tasks that are tiny to create momentum.

For example, if you want to earn your doctorate degree, it may not be helpful to write that on your to-do list. Instead, you can break that goal down into smaller goals like research doctorate programs, write a personal essay, apply for scholarships and contact administration. Creating a system for setting and achieving small goals allows you to build habits and own your career.

Read more: How To Set Goals and Achieve Them

Tips for successfully owning your career

You can use these tips for owning your career successfully:

  • Focus on what you can control: When planning for your career and setting goals, there may be obstacles you didn't expect. It's important to focus on what you can control when this happens, which is how you resolve conflict and solve problems.

  • Create effective career habits: Habits are actions you can take consistently and with little effort. Professional habits may include follow-up emails, an effective elevator pitch and completing your work on time.

  • Invest in continuous learning: Some careers paths, like medicine, law and teaching, require their professionals to complete continuous learning to continue working. If you're not on a career path like this, adopting and committing to continuous learning can help you own your career and advance within your industry.

  • Build a professional network: A professional network is a structure of contacts that can help you improve or further your career. To build your network, you can attend events for your industry, contact executives for professional interviews and build your professional brand.

  • Schedule time to rest and plan: Though working hard is important for owning your career, it's also important to rest and allow yourself time to plan. Scheduling this time each week allows you to reset and perform as best as you can.

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