It’s not just a job, it’s your career (Part one)
Futureproofing your career starts with a career strategy designed to not only provide you with a road map to help you secure the positions that you are seeking but establish a framework that will help you navigate your career direction, identify and harness opportunities that you might not have otherwise considered and help you meet the challenges you find along the way.
The foundations of your career strategy
Managing your career can be the greatest of challenges you face in life. It entails dealing with your own personal aspirations that may at times seem beyond realisation due to a host of reasons; some of which are in your control and others that aren’t. To meet these challenges you need to invest time in developing a career strategy that includes the building blocks that will put you in the best position to get you to where we want to be.
While some people have their careers clearly mapped out others have few ideas beyond getting their first or next job. Planning for the short and longer term will provide you with a road map that may take unexpected turns at various points but will help you focus on getting the most from each opportunity that you are presented with and ensuring you keep your career path on track.
No matter where you are in your career, whether you’re looking for your first job or a next stepper seeking a new opportunity, your starting point is to ask yourself what you would like your career to look like in the short, medium and long term.
While most of us struggle with crystal ball gazing into the distant future it becomes easier when we have laid the foundations for the short to medium term. To ensure that these foundations have a solid base you need a framework that will enable you to gain an accurate perspective on your capabilities and motivations and achievements, all of which will underpin your career strategy.
Over time you acquire a range of capabilities some well-developed and others less so. It is important to understand your strengths and the areas that require improvement. While this may sound self-evident many people either overestimate or underestimate their capabilities and this often leads to performance issues that if left unchecked will have a negative impact on career satisfaction and inhibit advancement.
Your capabilities are evaluated through the employment review process that most organisations conduct on an annual basis. These assessments can be valuable tools in identifying your strengths and areas that need improvement, particularly when you are afforded the opportunity to obtain detailed feedback from your employer.
Whether you work in a large organisation or a smaller company, look for evidence of your capabilities in your performance reviews. It is important that if you use the results of such an evaluation it is sound in its design and isn’t an ad hoc tick box process.
If you are not yet employed, find other sources of objective measurement of your capabilities, such as course assessments, or feedback from your community involvement, such as sporting teams or voluntary work. This is all relevant information.
If you are unsure about the robustness of your assessment of your capability you will benefit from the expertise of career advisers or coaches. They can be a key part of your career path success and if there is a need for improvement in a particular area they will be able to assist you to address it.
The importance of the role of motivation in our career and personal lives is reflected in the growth of the motivational advice industry which is now a global phenomenon. While motivational spruikers may offer some insight into how we can better understand what motivates us, most of what is imparted is a cocktail of home spun clichés that only offer little more than instant feel good moments. Their quick fix off the rack ‘solutions’ more often than not end up in the recycle bin as soon as the audience has left the adrenalin filled auditorium and is back in the real world.
Motivation is a personal issue and is determined by a range of factors, some of which are programmed into our DNA while others come from learnt behaviour. Occupational psychologists have conducted a myriad of studies on career motivation which point to a broad range of factors that instil and maintain motivation.
While some people are motivated by the challenge of building a business and taking their employees along on the journey, others’ motivations may lie in the satisfaction of doing the best at what they do no matter what that is. Alternatively, someone may find the day to day responsibilities offer them little stimulation but the interaction with their colleagues offers enough compensation to keep them motivated to perform well in their role.
It is important that you give recognition to the importance of your achievements as they are a statement of your successes and often form benchmarks in your career path. Additionally, they will be scrutinized by potential employers who will expect you to articulate your achievements and how you reached your goals.
While most people are proud of what they achieve, often we think that they are of little or no consequence or we don’t see the use in reflecting on them because we are focussed on our next achievement.
There is considerable emphasis placed by employers on quantitative achievements where you are able to provide measurable outcomes, but it is also important to be able to articulate work where you have contributed to projects where the outcomes aren’t directly measurable but the results had a positive impact.
To ensure that you are able to maintain your goals and leverage appropriate career opportunities it is useful to have a process in place to help you keep your focus.
In part two of this series we will examine how a personal audit is a critical tool in your career strategy.
This is an abbreviated extract taken from ‘It’s not just a job it’s your career’ by Peter Dawson written in conjunction with Susan Rochester, a senior HR practitioner.
By Peter Dawson