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Career Management – You Create Your Future

Last week some unknown person sent me emails predicting my future. According to the anonymous clairvoyant, in ten years my life will be going well. I’ll have a son who is bright but doesn’t apply himself (shocking), and I’ll be offered a job in Oshkosh that I shouldn’t take. After the third predictive email, the sender wanted to know if I had questions about my future. I didn’t.

  1. The whole thing was wildly creepy.
  2. No one should take advice from someone with this much discretionary time. The emailer needs a volunteer job.
  3. Why would I want someone else to tell me my future? That’s something I enjoy creating.

I’ve got a friend who feels a black cloud follows her. She feels bad things repeatedly happen to her and there’s nothing she does to create these situations, which is, of course, complete garbage.

It may be easier to blame someone or something for the bad things that happen to you, but if someone else is responsible, you have no control. And if you have no control over what happens to you, there is nothing you can do to create the life you really want.

I see myself as 100% responsible for everything that happens to me. As antithetical as it sounds, life is easier when I’m accountable. If I miss a plane because of traffic, I should have left for the airport earlier. If I get overcharged in a restaurant, I should have checked the bill more carefully. If I do a bunch of work for a client and later find out that the work I did isn’t what the client really wanted, I should have asked more questions upfront and asked for feedback earlier.

When I’m responsible for what happens to me, I have some control. When someone else is responsible, I have no control.

I’ll admit to going to a psychic…once. In 2001 I took a transfer from Denver to New York. Living in New York was fun and exciting, and great for my career, but I didn’t enjoy living in such an urban city. I agonized over what to do for two years – go back to Denver, stay in New York, or move someplace else?

Desperately unhappy, but not being able to make a decision, I went to see a psychic. Clearly I had given up. I was going to let someone I’d never met, who didn’t know anything about me, decide my future. Unless you’re at the Jersey Shore and decide to have your palm read for fun, seeing a psychic is abdicating responsibility for your life.

Instead of seeking answers about what might happen, pursue the things you want. If you want a different job in your organization, tell someone who can do something about it. If you got passed over for a job, ask the hiring manager for feedback of what would have made you a better candidate. If the hiring manager doesn’t give you any information, ask your current boss to get the information for you.  If one of your co-workers excludes you from projects, ask him why. If someone you work with seems to dislike you, ask for feedback about what you did to damage the relationship. Regardless of how challenging the situation and how disappointing the results, there is ALWAYS something you did to either contribute to the situation or something you can do to change the situation.

I don’t mean to tell you what to do. Nor do I mean to minimize how hard some life circumstances are.  But I do want you to see yourself as in charge of what happens to you.

Create the life you want by:

  1. Asking, “What do I really want, and what’s one thing I can do right now to get closer to that goal?” Then take one step. Then take one more, and so on.
  2. If negative things are happening, ask, “What could I have done differently to have a different outcome?” Or, ask, “If I could do this over again, what would I do differently.” Then next time, do it differently.

Regardless of how hard or bad something is, there is ALWAYS something you can do to make the situation better. Take your life, your career and your relationships into your own hands, where they belong.

career management

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Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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5 Responses to “Career Management – You Create Your Future”

  1. Anne says:

    LOVE THIS! Everyone needs to read this. Some people are better than others at taking ownership of their choices, but everyone needs to stop to consider how they occasionally (or frequently) delegate responsibility for the direction of their career.

    Great post that gave me lots of food for thought.

  2. Randy says:

    I’m totally with you on the accoutability thing, but I just wanted to add an additional perspective. My wife had something horrible happen to her many years ago, for which she had no control. She became very depressed and contemplated suicide. During her recovery, a theripist suggested that she go to a psycic so she did. The visit was a major turning point for her; hit gave her the hope that she needed to pull herself up by the bootstraps and move forward.

    • shari says:

      Randy, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry your wife was in such a difficult situation. I’m glad she found some peace!

  3. Madeline says:

    I volunteer my time to HS and college students and your words ring so true. What I find difficult is advising my colleagues who are set in there ways and don’t believe anything they do will change their situation. We have control of our future and we must be willing to take the steps to reach these goals. Also be willing to dedicate the time. There are no quick fixes. Great information!

  4. Amy says:

    Hi Shari, you recently spoke at my work, a credit union, and it really opened my eyes – it reconfirmed to me that I was only doing what I really enjoyed 10-20% of the time. I also had issues with my boss in which most could be addressed if either of us opened the door for feedback. Unfortunately after hearing you speak she did not invite feedback, however I worked up the guts to give feedback on things I felt I had a suggestion of how to improve, which did help me feel more in control of my happiness! However such things as: It irritates me that I have to constantly remind you of important issues or things we have already talked about and I loose faith in your abilities when you misreport my progress and I have to explain what is actually happening. – those things I still don’t know how I could ever say to anyone – I think they would have to be broken down into little things. Maybe I could suggest my boss take an excel class so she is not only able to understand the numbers but also will have more time for other things. Am I on the right track? I also probably need to say “We’ve already been working together and there has and will be times I have messed up and I hope you will give me feedback and I will say think you, is it OK If I do the same with you?”. As much as I dislike confrontation and love email because I’m able to better phrase and get my words out, I know this is needed in person. I know if I were to stay with this company I would repair this relationship and gain control of my happiness, however turns out because of the job tasks I recently accepted a job from another company and am excited to do more things I enjoy. In conclusion, I welcome any feedback and am grateful the company I work for gave us this opportunity to read your book and hear your presentation!

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