Supercharge your Career

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As we discussed in last week’s column, few things will have greater impact on your financial future than the decisions you make about how you save and spend money. However, sound financial planning also entails carefully developing your capacity to produce income. If you want to build your wealth, you need to give careful attention to nurturing your career.

Fortunately, we are currently in one of the best job markets of the last twenty years. A strong economy means jobs are plentiful and a tight labor market means workers are scarce. If you act carefully and with purpose, you can use these conditions to supercharge your career.

I recently read an excellent book called “Extreme Ownership.” The book’s underlying premise is the need for leaders to fully embrace accountability. When something goes wrong, the person who takes extreme ownership accepts full responsibility for the situation and then figures out what they can do to correct it. In a world where many people try to dodge responsibility or shift blame, the person who takes extreme ownership stands out in a very positive way. That person is a leader and organizations value leadership.

The philosophy of extreme ownership can help you improve your performance on the job as well as the trajectory of your career. If your career is stuck or your pay is lagging, it is your problem and only you can take the action necessary to correct it. The sooner you take full ownership for the state and progress of your career, the further your career will take you.

You should start with a candid self-assessment. Where are you now and where do you want your career to eventually lead? What is the next step on that path? Are you ready to take that step? Are you worth what you want to be paid? If not, are there skills you need to learn that will help you achieve your career goals?

For example, you may need to improve your communication skills. People with better communication skills are more upwardly mobile in their careers, sometimes advancing faster than peers with better credentials. You can learn better communication skills by watching great communicators in action and trying to emulate them. You can also learn by participating in a group like Toastmasters. Toastmasters will help you learn practical communication skills that will help you be more confident and comfortable expressing yourself in front of others.

In addition to your self-assessment, you need to have a candid and constructive conversation with the appropriate leaders in your company. Tell them you want to discuss your career goals. Ask them how you can prepare yourself for greater responsibility in the organization. As you prepare for these conversations, make sure you are ready to hear what they have to say, even if it is painful, embarrassing or disappointing. Try to be sensitive to the political realities of your organization.

If you have never before had this kind of conversation, it will likely change the way the organization sees you. In the right organization—one that values employee initiative and rising leaders—it will open doors of opportunity. However, in the wrong organization, it may result in your eventual departure. Don’t worry too much about that. If your current employer doesn’t support your career aspirations, you need to find a better opportunity anyway. In either case, it all starts with you taking extreme ownership for your career.


Steven C. Merrell  MBA, CFP®, AIF® is a Partner at Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey.   He welcomes questions that you may have concerning investments, taxes, retirement, or estate planning.  Send your questions to: Steve Merrell,   2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA  93940 or email them to