Confrontation between two business peopleForging a career path for the Class of 2013 won’t be easy, but it is certainly doable if you are willing to bring it on and showcase what you have to offer the world. The first step comes from articulating what you want in your professional life. Say it out loud; write it down, and then start to own your aspirations by telling others. Before you know it, people will surface who can help you on your customized career journey. You will attract members of your Personal Board of Directors when you start to envision what it is you really want in life and there is no better time to start than now!

Lean In To Your Career

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gave an inspiring graduation speech at Barnard College in 2011 that lives on in the blogosphere and has evolved into her best-selling book of the same name. She told the young graduates to be ambitious and self-confident, and to “lean in” to their careers, especially since control was theirs for the taking. The world will present many choices during your professional lifetime and career paths can be circuitous and inevitably, they will change. But if you “lay back” and let things happen by default, you lose the power of choice you so richly deserve.

According to Sheryl: “Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision that honors you.” Be excellent at what you do and lean into your career with self-confidence and the power to control your professional destiny.

Make Time for Dreams

Give yourself permission to dream. It’s healthy and exhilarating to think big and be ambitious about what you really want personally and professionally. Leadership belongs to those who take it and career management is leadership behavior. Leadership has nothing to do with rank. Even if you are an entry-level employee, you must take your career future into your own hands.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae and forget to honor your dreams. Work/life integration is tough and balance is next to impossible, but dreaming will empower you to rejuvenate and focus on what you really want. Dreams are necessary to develop your goals and they tap your creativity to consider the possibilities.

Only you can define what success and happiness means to you, dreaming gives you permission to design your life and career destiny. Dreaming begs the question – what would you do if you weren’t afraid?  Fortune begs the bold – don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire and give yourself time to dream big so you can begin to make it your reality.

Expand Your Comfort Zone

Put yourself out there because you will never know what you are capable of unless you try. Aim high and don’t think about stepping out of your comfort zone as a painful process. Consider expanding your comfort zone as a way to sharpen your strengths and discover new passions.

Naomi C. Earp, former Commissioner of the EEOC said: “Society moves forward because people venture something new, not because they play it safe. Push through your fear and seize new opportunities.” You’ve got to identify how you want to bring it career wise.

Create Your Own Tipping Point

By bringing it, setting goals, and dreaming big you not only honor yourself but you can create the momentum you need for your personal tipping point. All of these things add up and will help you prioritize what you want and deserve in your professional life.

Take comfort in knowing that you can be in control of your professional dreams and your career future. You can change your mind, change direction, and reinvent as often as you wish. But bringing it is your way of embracing your dreams, walking tall, and owning your self-confidence. Consider the legacy you want to leave in the world. Are you bringing it?

The Class of 2013 is the succession plan for the future. The challenge is yours as well as the responsibility. Create relationships with influencers and connectors and be ready to talk about what makes you unique. Someday soon you’ll be tapped to help future graduating classes find their way in the career world and this will be your chance to pay-it-forward.

Celebrate the success you have earned—I  am cheering you on all the way. Now the tougher journey has begun, but I have confidence that you will succeed if you assume the responsibility and take the power you have and use it wisely.

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