6 Principles For Managing Your Career
How to Grow and Advance Your Career in a Changing World of Work
Hello! Changing things up for a bit and sharing a talk I gave last week. If this is not you jam, consider checking out a podcast interview I did with Matthew Daniel on Career Mobility and Talent Pathways.
6 Principles For Managing Your Career in Today’s World of Work
The talk got some good feedback and I wanted to share an excerpt from the presentation in a blog post to get some broader feedback from folks in my network.
Many people have aspirations for wanting to thrive and be successful in their jobs and in their careers. Furthermore, due to innovation, the remote workplace, online learning and new careers and industries being formed, there are more paths and opportunities to build jobs and careers that help professionals achieve their fullest potential and get what they want out of their work and careers.
Unfortunately, many employees, while they have the best of intentions for their paths and careers, feel stuck or frustrated. Not many people ever get taught how to effectively manage their careers, or even what it takes to be effective or successful in the workplace.
I know this first-hand, from my own experience entering the workplace right out of college. Even though I had a great education and worked at a phenomenal company, I was not prepared nor did I understand what it actually meant to manage my career.
Since then, I’ve been on a mission to help companies improve how they teach their employees to manage their careers, and helping employees gain the mindset, habits and practices for managing their careers, and I wanted to share some of the key principles I think are needed and relevant for today’s workplace.
First, to get started, why are we here?
Employers need to help employees with career development – 39% of people who left a job said so because their company wasn’t offering career development opportunities. Furthermore, 94% of employees said they would stay if a company invested in their learning and development
Employees have to own their careers: 43% of employees said their career development took a backseat during the pandemic. 2/3rd’s of managers are failing to support their employees in their career growth
Our World of Work is Constantly Changing - If the past 3 years taught us anything, its that change isn’t going away. In fact 12 of the 25 hottest growing job titles weren’t 5 years ago (LinkedIn)
What this means is that we all need new ideas, language, and mindsets for how to develop and grow our careers (and our people) so that we can continue to evolve and thrive in a changing world of work.
The following are 6 principles that I’ve come up with to help you manage your career in today’s workplace
#1) Identify and Utilize Your Superpowers
There’s a lot of discussion about having the right set of skills in order to be relevant in today’s workplace. While this won’t touch on that discussion, what I think is important is that you figure out what you are good at, that you really enjoy doing, and find as many ways to incorporate that into your work. Finding your superpower and using it, helps not only you, but others around you.
Research shows that when we know of and use our strengths in our job, we are more likely to report that we are engaged and fulfilled at work. This seems relatively intuitive - if we are working on projects and in jobs where we get to do things that we are good at, we’ll like and enjoy it. So how do we find and use our superpowers?
This requires two things. First, deeply understanding what that superpower is. You may have an inkling or idea of what that is, but it may require some “thinking and doing” in order to hone in on it.
The second is, being aware of how you can bring that to life, in your job and in your career. This will come from you, proactively spotting opportunities to use it, but can also come when you make others aware of your superpowers so they can spot opportunities on your behalf.
How to Do It: Spend time getting to know yourself, your strengths, and the things you uniquely enjoy doing. Start with a business personality assessment like StrengthsFinder, Disc, Business Chemistry or MBTI, and talk about it withy our manager.
#2)Embrace Agility Through Exploration
In a constantly changing and evolving workplace, the pace of change isn’t getting any slower, and innovations of new industries, markets and companies won’t slow down. For many of us, the next job we have we may have never heard of the job title or industry. How can you build a long term career plan when the thing you might be doing doesn’t even exist?!
Instead of looking for “big” moments or milestones to prioritize career development (ex: your yearly career conversation, performance evaluations, when your manager decides to talk to you, when it’s time to get promoted) you should embrace career agility, and be continuously sensing and responding to your interests, opportunities and experiences to iteratively work toward career development and growth.
Using a much more responsive approach of exploration and experimentation, you can follow our curiosities and test them through “small bets” of career hypotheses and afterwards, using those learnings to iteratively make progress.
While sometimes this might be taking on a new role or looking to move into a new role, this could also mean staying right in place, or taking on something on the side in a small manner.
Over time, these smaller bets, and the learnings that come from them lead to opportunities for yourself to grow in your career.
How to Do it
Design and execute career experiments to explore an interest or curiosity. Take on a project outside of yore core day job (or on the side) that aligns to something you want to explore.
#3) Balance Your Inner and Outer Game
I love self-reflection and believe in the importance of self-awareness. However, you cannot “reflect” your way into a new career. Additionally, execution and action matters, but doing your career for the sake of doing and execution doesn’t get you toward your own goals, priorities or values. You, instead, need to balance thinking and doing. Thinking is about knowing yourself, your goals, your values and your interests. Taking the time to reflect, discern or explore these is critical to managing your career.
But your outer game is also critical - this is about exploring options, getting feedback to gain knowledge and expertise and eventually, taking action and learning from it. The trick is knowing how to balance both.
How to do it
Make time to reflect and document your thoughts and reflections on your job, career growth, strengths and interests.
Make time to act on your reflections and self-awareness through new experiments or by getting feedback from others that you trust.
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#4) Make Career Development a Team Sport
If you talk to successful people at the pinnacle of their careers and ask them what made them successful, they will most likely talk about how they couldn’t have done it alone, and how they got a significant amount of help from others.
Part of this is because they’ve embraced the idea that their career development is a team sport, and not an individual one. More like football, or soccer, less like golf. The reality is that all of us live in a world that is much bigger than us, and each day, that bigger world includes the organizational system we are a part of known as our company. While our ambitions, skills, and work ethic are critical and important, it is very difficult for one person, no matter how smart or talented they are, to override a complex system or construct. But when that individual acknowledges and sees others around them, and works with them on their goals, aspirations, and navigating through the system, they can ultimately unlock their potential, and achieve significantly more than going alone.
This doesn’t change the fact that you should take ownership of your career. Ultimately, you have to run your own race, and work toward the goals that matter most to you.
How To Do It
Build a team of advisors, mentors, peers, and outside connections who can provide guidance, feedback and social capital to support your career development and growth
Participate internally and externally in career communities that share your interests, passions, and commonalities and find ways to contribute to the mission
#5) Document and Share Your Learnings and Lessons
Many of us are told that we need to build a personal brand or “network” so we can be influential. While those things are not untrue, they often don’t move the needle to get people to take action.
But building a personal brand or being seen as influential isn’t just about being known or vanity metrics, it's all about increasing the opportunities for everyone (including yourself) to achieve more as a result of your contributions.
If building a personal brand or “networking” isn’t landing for you, I’d encourage you to find ways to share the learnings and knowledge of your work and your career with others.
First, it helps others. When others are aware of what you have done or what you are learning, it can often help them immediately in their job, or over the longer term, in giving them ideas they can use to do their job more effectively. This helps them but it also helps your organization around creativity and innovation.
Second, it can help you. When others are aware of your work and impact, or are hearing regularly about the impact that you are making, it helps your own brand and visibility as being an expert or influential person on a particular topic. It also helps your manager help you when it comes time to performance management, and it increases your surface area for opportunities.
How to Do it
Regularly document your work and share it with your manager and key stakeholders so you and others can benefit.
Having a rewarding and fulfilling career is a gift and a privilege. It’s a way to contribute to the world in ways that are bigger than ourselves, but that help us find meaning and fulfillment in our lives. Above all, have fun, enjoy the ride, and be kind to other people along the way
#6) Build Habits and Practices for Career Growth
Your career is your own, and only you can uniquely decide the direction you want to take it in and what you want to make of it.
In addition to being fully engaged in your company’s performance evaluation and career development process, you should also proactively implement consistent practices and habits that fuel your own career growth.
By putting in place a set of habits and practices for intentional growth, you can ensure that you are working towards a vision that is rooted in your values, interests and goals.
Think of your career development like an operating system - an operating system is what ensures your smartphone or computer runs smoothly and effectively. Your career will run smoothly and effectively when you’ve got these habits and practices on autopilot that are just running in the background.
For example, making it a monthly habit to conduct informational interviews with people whose job you are curious about, or committing to attending a monthly ERG meeting. Or, taking the time at the end of each quarter to reflect on how much you’re using your strengths in your role. By getting into regular practice with these, you can make your operating system stay relevant and up to date.
How to Do It
Identify a set of career practices that led to career growth and consistently act those habits on your desired cadence (ex: weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly)
Proactively engage with your manager about setting a regular cadence for a career conversation
In a perfect world, we’d teach every future employee the mindset and practices for managing their career before and during when they enter in the workplace so they have the tools they need to thrive in today’s world of work.
While we’re not doing this yet, I’m hopeful that the conversation and dialogue is shifting so that we’re having more conversations and taking more actions to help students, employees, managers and leaders understand how we can help people get the most out of their work and careers.
Whether we are just trying to get by in the workplace or wanting to thrive and advance, our jobs and our careers are where we spend a lot of time and effort. The more we can give people the tools to manage them, the more they can make a positive impact for themselves and for others
These are my thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours! What resonated? What would you add?
Have a great week,