It’s becoming an old cliché but practically the only thing that can be guaranteed at the moment is change. We work with and talk to a lot of people who are being presented with ‘opportunities’ in various guises to reassess their current career and look seriously at alternatives.
In all the years we’ve been helping people find the right job or assisting people adapt the job they are in to better suit them we’ve noticed three key traits that enable some to have more satisfying careers than others. This isn’t a scientific survey but these three themes might help you take more control of your career.
Theme 1: Everything is an opportunity for learning
People who manage their career successfully see everything as feedback to learn from. They take their lessons from what others would be considered failure and don’t get complacent when things are going well. They constantly ask what they could do better and well-run organisations create a culture that supports this.
There’s a story of a senior manager in IBM who after making a big mistake that cost IBM a significant amount of money was summoned to the head guys office (Tom Watson if I recall correctly). The stressed executive answered questions patiently while waiting to be given the inevitable marching orders. After some time though he simply couldn’t contain himself any longer and said, “I can’t take it any more – please just get it over with and tell me to clear my desk“. The top man replied, “why on earth would we do that when we’ve just spent millions of dollars educating you?”
Are you taking the lessons from your daily working life? Are you learning from everything you do? This is the primary attitude that will prepare you for the future.
Theme 2: Know when the last job is done and be proactive
To maximise personal growth the proactive career managers know that each job has a certain lifespan in terms of learning. Once the initial honeymoon period is over (typically a few months) it can take some time to fully feel you have your feet under the table (18-24 months seems normal). In other words, in a few years at most, you’re likely to have maximised the personal learning opportunities that a new job presents. If you are keen on learning and growing as an individual this is the time to start to plan your exit, if you haven’t started already. And then it’s time to ask such questions as:
1. What do I want to learn now?
2. What skills are valued that I need to hone for the future?
3. What do I like about the current role that I want to keep in the next?
4. What do I want to do differently next time?
5. What’s the right amount of stretch for me next?
Now there certainly is a case for simply enjoying the job you’re doing well and sticking with it and of course many people do for many years. Unfortunately you may not be preparing yourself for the true reality of your situation given the pace of change at the moment.
Jobs that existed 10 years ago simply no longer exist now. Social networks and the internet are transforming communication and the way we work and exchange information. The demand for greater soft skills and increased emotional intelligence is becoming more visible for those that manage others. The kind of skills we teach on our NLP Diploma programme and being recognised as essential for success in all major organisations. Are you ready for the next job and what you will need to learn?
Theme 3: Work to your strengths but first know what they are
Successful people work to their strengths. Many people aren’t even sure what their strengths are and some focus on purely making sure that their weaknesses don’t get found out.
We all have things that we are good at and skills that we find satisfying to use. These are often expressions of underlying values and beliefs that define who we are as individuals. Understanding these underlying drivers is the key to:
1. Finding a job that is rewarding and satisfying
2. Modifying your current role to make it more personally rewarding
3. Communicating your needs to the people around you
4. Ensuring your long-term career is heading in the right direction
If we are not playing to our values we can feel dissatisfied and frustrated. If we’re working in a way that we value but that isn’t appreciated this can also lead to despondency. So the key is to work in a way we value in a place where our values are also appreciated.
So by way of a summary give yourself a score of 1 to 10 (1 being never and 10 being consistently when the opportunity presents itself) for the following 3 factors:
1. Do you treat everything as learning; both successes and failures?
2. Do you proactively manage the life span of your job?
3. Do you know what your strengths are and do you work to them?
How did you do? Whatever your score was, how might you add 3 points to it?
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