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Crafting A Career Path, By Julius Opuni Asamoah

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Whenever I hear people grousing about their jobs or bosses, l just want to holler, suck it up and do something about it. In all our endeavours we need to dole out job advice to colleagues, peers and subordinates. It’s about finding meaning and joy in the work you do every day. It’s also about feeling like you are relevant and making a difference.

My career advice runs the gamut from helping people make the most of where they are right now. Finding the strategic ways to pivot to a successful career change, or developing a strategy to re-enter the workforce after a job loss, or perhaps to land a part-time job to earn income on retirement to shore up financial security. Sometimes, all it takes is making small changes to how we work, just to be in a modus vivendi.

Regardless of our career stage, we will run up against difficult bosses, feeling stuck with no signs of promotion and feeling like we have no work-life balance, bored and burnt out. For nearly a decade, one of my trusted experts, who l have consulted for several of my articles and write-ups, is a white lady boss of mine, under whom l worked some years ago.

She is my sounding board and my guiding light on many of my career decisions and workplace issues. I have found her advice to be practical, straight forward and frankly, doable. It ranges from big-picture soul searching to seemingly simple moves someone can make to get unstuck, such as uncluttering his or her office.

This beautiful white lady boss of mine is christened Virginia Cameron. She was the worldwide Head of Finance for IFAD. One keynote of Virginia’s motivational and knowledgeable counsel to her subordinates is to know that you own your career. In one of her setpieces, she has woven her concise advice together to offer hope and help to us all.

Her summed-up advice is simply that, when you change your attitude towards work and act always like a CEO, instead of feeling like a cog in the wheel, you become the driver. You then run your career like a one-man business. You accept that no one else is going to do it for you. Most of the workplace blues comes from a sense of powerlessness, says my former boss. Not only can this shifting of your internal thought help you navigate your current workscape, if you are job-hunting, it can also ramp up your chances of getting hired. Running a good career gives you confidence, swagger, autonomy and choice.

Being a professional accountant, investment is our trademark of our alternative livelihood, also, to cushion us in obstreperous circumstances. Pursuing investment is very critical in Ghana. Of late, we all witnessed that a large part of financial transactions occurred outside the formal financial system. Investors pushed their hard-earned investible funds to the informal financial institutions.

Meanwhile, these informal financial institutions were characterised by incomplete markets and imperfect information, therefore we should best know where to invest, to avert personal shortcomings. Those who were defrauded of their investments came to public scrutiny but the case is now sharply dimmed, as earlier predicted.

Even those counted as impecunious gave absolutely no thought to where to invest. There was an air of inevitability about the eminent collapse of these imperfect financial markets, however, people succeeded to avail themselves to enrich the originators. So, in summary we should listen to Standard Chartered Bank. Per Citi FM’s business news of 7th February 2019, they emphasised categorically that, “the bonds market is the safest for investment” and this proves the defining period for prudent investments.

Having grown up in a household where most of our relatives owned investments, we were encouraged to thread this path of always having freelance projects outside our main jobs. As a result, I’ve always been nimble and not entirely dependent, even psychologically on one boss. I learned to view my primary employer as my client. It’s liberating and has helped me navigate my career path and remain resilient during rocky patches.

I know that the path to professional success isn’t what it used to be. In many ways that’s good. Today, there are more professional opportunities available than ever before. But in order to reap the rewards and enjoyment from a successful career, you must know how to acquire the skills you need for your journey, how to manage yourself in unexpected circumstances and how to roll with the punches.

For decades, l have worked closely with high-achieving professionals and learnt that you cannot predict where your career path will take you, but you can prepare for it. You can learn smart workplace tactics and at the same time, gradually build qualities that will bring you success. Success seems to be a matter of climbing into the right organisational ladder and hanging on.

Professionals are expected to be loyal and conform to institutional values. In some developed countries, in exchange for loyalty, the big organisations offer the promise of lifetime employment. Now, the idea of spending your whole career in one place, keeping your head down and continuing to do pretty much the same type of work seems quaint.

Careers flow through many phases, involving numerous relationships, shifting skill sets and startling change. Your career is likely to include many jobs. Perhaps some will be full time and long lasting, whereas others could be short-term, freelance gigs. There may be times when you juggle several jobs or businesses at once.

Sometimes you career may not involve paid work, but your professional growth will continue, as you change jobs, in a way to explore new directions. As you move from place to place, you may find that workplace cultures vary widely, making navigating on the job more confusing than ever. At some workplaces things look informal at first glance, you soon have to decipher complex relationships and meet productivity expectations that are extraordinarily high but have never been actually defined.

The whole concept of career is different in its entirety, than it was in the last century. When l talk about career, l am not just thinking of what we do at the office. Career is no longer distinct from our lives. It includes everything we do to stay in shape, physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially, in order to do our best work.

Our career encompasses learning experiences, from the books we read to our circle of comrades, part-time pursuits and community activities. “Professional” is another word that has shifted meaning. The traditional professionals include accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects and other specially educated, licensed and relatively well-paid experts. But now the definition of a professional includes anybody who is seriously engaged in meaningful and challenging work.

Today’s professionals are committed to building their skills and expertise, and maintaining quality and ethical standards, in myriad fields from IT to the culinary arts. Whereas modern professionals still want to be adequately compensated, employers also expect more from their work. They want to find meaning and fun on the job, and at the same time enjoy a richer and broader life.

Professionals who are adaptable are able to put aside assumptions about their tasks, bosses or clients. They try new strategies to achieve what they want. They are willing to be flexible, sometimes experimenting a bit as they tweak their performance or build stronger relationships with colleagues.

Career resilience means being able to anticipate risks and feel comfortable with change. Resilience involves limiting damage during turbulent times. It means knowing how to absorb hard knocks, regroup and bounce back when the worst happens. It is the ability to start feeling better and bolster your confidence after a setback. It is also about remaining engaged in the midst of shifting challenges. Resilience brings security in this constantly changing world.

In conclusion, my observation from watching hundreds of adaptable, resilient careerists is that, regardless of where they work, most of them are potential thinkers. They are curious, open-minded and skilled at variety of trends and turning them into opportunities. They resist the edge to be defensive or get bogged down. Instead, they handle each challenge as it comes along and then quickly re-focus on the future. They keep learning and building their social networks, and they are open to new ideas, agile in tumultuous situations and willing to keep building social, technical and managerial skills.

Over the long haul, the most successful professionals act like savvy CEOs. They are quick to take responsibility and are always planning ahead. They share the praise and turn quickly to problem solving when things go wrong. They know their own value system and they organise themselves to live within it. Finally, they listen to other people and are typically eager to support their success.