be accountableHow accountable have you been in your career thus far? Have you taken your career by the reins or just let it happen? These may seem like strange questions but the reality is that many people often leave their professional fates in someone else’s hands, simply sitting on the sidelines and hoping for the best.

Successful careers don’t just happen; they’re usually the result of careful planning and implementation. And while you may find someone who’s willing to invest time, energy and money into you (i.e. an employer), keep in mind that there may be limitations to that investment and it usually lasts for as long as it will benefit them.

The truth is that no one will ever be as invested in your career as you are. Your career is just that … your career, and you’re responsible for the direction that it takes.

Accountability is key to effective career planning. Without checks and balances along the way, career simply happens, and the end result may not be what you want. If you haven’t been holding yourself accountable in your endeavors, here are three ways to get on track:

Embrace self-reflection.

It’s not always easy to take an objective look at ourselves but being accountable means being honest and willing to ask yourself the hard questions AND give the hard answers. True reflection includes periodic check-ins with yourself where you ask:

Am I putting my best foot forward in my work? If not, how can I improve? Where could I stand to grow?

What areas do I need to increase my knowledge in? What professional development opportunities should I pursue?

Am I on track in my overall career aspirations? If not, how do I get back on track?

Do I need to make any changes in my career at this point?

What type of change (i.e. increased responsibility, promotion, transfer to a new department, new job outside of the organization, etc.)?

Is this a good time for this change?

How might this change positively and negatively affect my career plan, my lifestyle, family, finances, etc.?

What is my plan for making this change?

Who do I need to connect with to make it happen?

If it’s bad timing, what’s preventing it?

Know where you stand in your current position.

Some of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand like ostriches when it comes to our careers. Ignorance in your work-life, however, isn’t bliss. Knowing where you stand is vital to getting to where you eventually want to be. Instead of waiting for your annual performance evaluation to roll around for feedback, you should:

Check in with your supervisor from time to time to assess how you’re doing. Determine what he/she thinks you’re doing well and what areas might require some improvement, and make changes accordingly.

Keep track of your accomplishments and achievements including relevant dates and numbers to support your claims. Don’t simply rely on your supervisor to do this; he/she may miss a noteworthy (and potentially game-changing) accolade. When evaluation time rolls around, you’ll already have a running list of your contribution efforts, and this information is also valuable when updating your resume.

Recruit accountability partners.

When we’re in the thick of our careers, it’s easy to sometimes get comfortable or stuck in a rut, and it helps to have an outsider’s perspective to keep you on task. Effective accountability partners will:

Help you keep sight of your career goals.

Ask you the hard questions.

Be honest and offer objective advice.

Get you back on track when necessary.

Remember, this is your career, and you’re liable what it ultimately becomes, for good or for bad. If you’re not willing take the time to invest in your future, why should you expect anyone else to?

Take a look at where you are in your career. What are you going to do this week to hold yourself accountable in your professional pursuits?

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