Do You Have Control Over Your Career?
Do You Have Control Over Your Career?

Do you take control of your own career?  Or, do you wait for others to make your career decisions?
How Autonomous Are You?
Answer "yes" or "no."
1. I often do things I don't want to do at work.
2. I accept responsibility for the work I do.
3. I'm usually self-reliant at work.
4. I perform tasks required in my job description.
5. I have little influence over things that happen to me at work.
6. I can usually plan my work day.
7. I don't overly concern myself with what co-workers think of me.
8. I don't always attend out of office social engagements because some co-workers suggest this.
9. I prefer work where I'm not closely supervised.
10. Getting a good job depends on the right breaks.
11. I need freedom to perform job tasks my own way.
12. I don't like working under strict rules.
13. My beliefs aren't influenced by others.
14. My successes are the result of hard work, determination and ability.
15. I often worry whether others will approve of my decisions.
Scoring: One point for each "no" to statements 1, 5, 10 and 15; and one for each "yes" to all others.
11 or higher: You are your own person. You believe you're in charge of your destiny and seldom blame others for bad experiences. You make your own decisions and, if necessary, swim against the tide.
6  to 10: You may be overly concerned with others' opinions or status. Are these controlling your life? Review your responses and identify at least one change you can make.
5 or lower: You may believe that what happens to you is determined by others, fate or chance. You're influenced by pressure from others and may lack clear goals. Are you settling for less than you deserve?
Put more faith in your own ability to make good things happen. Try some of the suggestions below.
Enhancing Autonomy
- Know and accept yourself.
Let go of old ideas about who you should be. Own your successes. In a notebook or on the computer, list all your accomplishments in prior jobs, school, community or home endeavors. Recall enjoyable activities. These are the result of your efforts and abilities, not chance.
- Recognize you do have options. Testing your options may mean tradeoffs, but usually they're worth the inconvenience. You can create your desired work and lifestyle. You can get your ideal job, study, travel, establish a business, restructure your current position, or pursue volunteer activities that give you a sense of meaning, purpose, accomplishment and confidence.
- Confront fears. Accept the fact that you're afraid. Don't fight it. Identify your fears. What's stopping you from pursing your desired career goal? Is it fear of failing? not knowing what to expect? inability to afford material comforts? other?
FEAR stands for False Expectations Appear Real. Live in the present. Don't worry about what might happen. Instead, research your goal, then develop an action plan to minimize setbacks and attain desired goal.
Let go of "attachments." The more attached you are to something, the greater the fear of losing it. Ask yourself, "What do I need to let go of?" "Why am I afraid?" "What's the worst thing that can happen if I let go?" "How can I minimize this?"
- Challenge irrational beliefs. State negative predictions ("I'll make a fool of myself if I speak out at staff meetings."), then devise ways to test them (Say something at the next meeting). Now develop a way to measure the outcome (Notice how people are reacting). Finally, draw a conclusion ("I can speak out, and people are listening to what I say.") In a notebook, keep a record of irrational thoughts and devise ways to challenge their validity.
- Think for yourself.  Don't echo others' opinions. Say what you mean and want. Just because others have opinions doesn't mean yours aren't valid. Make your own decisions. There are few wrong decisions, just different results.
Becoming more autonomous takes time and practice. But you'll feel good about yourself. You'll become more efficient, confident and assertive. You'll have more choices, more strength, and greater control of your career -- and life. 

Questers, described in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, by Carole Kanchier, gives numerous other tips to enhance autonomy at work: