Why Wait? Offer Yourself a Work Life Promotion

Dr. Marla GottschalkFebruary 13, 2013

Freelancers have a unique and highly challenging workplace role. Already responsible for seeking out work and juggling the responsibilities related to multiple projects (and bosses) – you have the added pressure of managing your own career. Without a fixed organizational affiliation, you may not have ready access to a “guiding body” related to career development decisions. For freelancers – there seems to be a real need for a different “book of rules” concerning work life development – and the first rule is to take control.

As the “manager” of your own work life – give yourself permission to act aggressively on your own behalf. You can bring more of what is needed into your work life – but this requires careful consideration and directed action. Remember that a “promotion” is not simply about a title or a level. It is also about the content of the work and the opportunity to enrich your skill set. (You may not be a freelancer – but you might offer yourself a much needed “promotion”, as well.)

Some work life promotion options:

Seek challenge.
When was the last time you learned something new and valuable that could be applied to your work? A challenging project can provide this needed work life component. Spend 5 minutes writing down a description of a useful “stretch assignment” – then actively search for it. The work may be unproven territory, but that’s the point.

Utilize dry spells.
The nature of a freelance life almost guarantees there will be down time – so try to use the time wisely. Tackle activities that will help you down the line, such as developing an Excel file of potential employers and contacts – or embark on a new collaboration. I also recommend reading how others handle this very tricky (and often unnerving) work life by-product. (You are not alone. More ideas here and here.)

Develop an enriched network by applying the 70-20-10 rule.
Members of your extended work group can enrich your knowledge base, influence your goals and help you excel. When you interact with inspiring people – it’s going to “rub off” onto you. Remember to include those outside your normal realm – those that work in areas that might add dimension to your perspective. (For example, I have linked with individuals in the technology realm, who offer a unique perspective of technology as applied to work life).

Include training opportunities.
No one is going to require you to keep pace in your industry – so take the initiative yourself. Attempt to participate in at least one enrichment opportunity every six months, if possible. Attend a conference or workshop near to where you reside. Participate in a free podcast. Always acknowledge the need to stay relevant.

Keep an eye on your path.
Have you ever stopped to review the direction you are headed? As a freelancer, I might not notice when I am drifting off course – simply because I want to remain busy (and pay the bills). Reflect back on the projects you have accepted and decide whether you have remained on the right path. Adjust your “internal career GPS” and then move forward.

Invest in infrastructure.
Do you have a task or process that stops you from becoming more effective? Upgrades in technology and applications can alleviate problems and can become your new work life standard. It could be justified to throw a few dollars in this direction – so give yourself permission to do so. (Some ideas for tools here.)

Identify a “Board of Career Directors”.
Having a mentor or group of mentors is critical. Re-establish with a favorite instructor, supervisor or client. If you cannot identify an ideal group in your current network, complete research on Linkedin or other career-focused platforms. Reach out to 3 or 4 individuals who might offer a needed career perspective – build that “board”. This group can serve as a needed “listening ear” for career development decisions.

How do you keep your career moving forward? Tell us your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Organizational Psychologist and coach.