To Thrive in Your Career, Upgrade Your Career Operating System
Introducing The Career Operating System (CoS)
In addition to hard skills and soft skills, employees need a set of career development skills to navigate and thrive in the future of work. Building a Career OS ensures you can succeed wherever you are in your career.
For the past 12 years, I’ve had the privilege to work with smart, hard-working and career driven professionals at two exceptional organizations, which has allowed me the chance to study and understand what makes these career-driven individuals successful.
Over the past 3 months in my life post-corporate, I spent a lot of time talking with friends and colleagues about their own career aspirations. The good news is that from talking with these people and hundreds of additional high-performing employees, I’ve found a significant advantage in those who have managed to develop their careers and to achieve their own career success.
Yes, these high-performing individuals had not only the right mix of hard and soft skills to do their jobs well, which led to career execution and results, but an underlying operating system and mindset about their career that allowed them to develop a career vision and achieve their career goals. I’ve come to the conclusion after studying these individuals that what separated these people from the average employee is that they had successfully developed and upgraded their Career Operating System.
Introducing the Career Operating System (CoS)
Similar to how an Iphone has an operating system, we as employees need a Career Operating System (a CoS) to ensure that we have the infrastructure needed to achieve our career goals, whether that’s building new skills, gaining new responsibility, or finding the next job, function, or career opportunity. Just like an operating system helps lay the foundation for all of your computer’s apps and software to run effectively, a career operating system ensures all of your apps (ex: skills, capabilities and experiences) can be used effectively to achieve a career goal.
As an employee, you have two jobs: the first is to do your job exceptionally well, and the second is to learn how to grow in your career in a way that achieves your career goals. A mix of hard and soft skills focuses on how #1 (Career Execution), and the Career Operating System focuses on #2. The two work in a virtual cycle, to help you navigate your career today while setting you up for future and continuous opportunities down the road.
So what is a career operating system? It is comprised of the following elements
Intentional Career Planning - Intentionally and consistently identifying your preferred career growth and goals, and taking actions that align with those desired goals
Curiosity Led Learning - Using curiosity, a growth mindset and self-motivation to quickly learn and acquire skills and turn insights into opportunities
360 Awareness - Following your interests to sense and identify emergent trends in your business or market, and responding to take advantage of emergent opportunities
Generous Advocacy - Documenting and conveying who you are, what you do, and sharing the impact you make to a diverse group of audiences within or outside of your company
Continuous Relationship Building - Building meaningful and impactful relationships with others in order to achieve goals and develop personally and professionally
Organizational Acumen - Proactively identifying the processes, protocol and people that drive and performance decisions and your way through the organization
How to Build Your Career Operating System
If you’re worried about another set of skills you have to build and grow in order to succeed in your career you can relax because the good news is that you probably already have a good base and foundation. But to go from here, here are a few actionable recommendations:
How to Get Started:
Take an inventory - Assess where you are today with the components that were highlighted, and get specific in terms of identifying specific actions that you’ve taken, that demonstrate your aptitude level with each component. Getting clarity around what makes sense, where you’ve made progress, adn where you can focus on next can help you understand how developed your career operating system is today, and what you need to do to build it further.
Go on a listening tour - The great thing about a career is that it is yours - everyone develops their career in their own unique way, but the career operating system and the components generally stays the same. Talk the time to talk to people who you know who have invested in their career development, and understand how they are using the Career Operating System to achieve their own career goals. While their career journey is inherently different than yours, it can help you generate ideas for how to use your operating system on your own career path
Find Practitioners who are ahead of you - Building your operating system is your responsibility but it doesn’t mean you have to do this alone. Seek out other peers, who are a few steps ahead of you in the targeted components you want to build, and learn from them.
Proactively Make Space For Career Planning - Oftentimes, career development either gets pushed to the side due to other priorities or is grouped in with conversations around your performance evaluation. Make sure to set time with yourself, and also with your manager to talk about career development, what progress you have made since your last conversation, and what you hope to continue with
Make Feedback Regular - Just like an OS gets an upgrade, so should yours. One way to do this is to consistently ask for feedback and use that feedback to drive iterations and improvements.
According to research from PWC, 82% of people say that career development is their own personal responsibility but 42% felt that they were the biggest barrier in the way of their own career development.
While your company needs to help facilitate, taking time to develop and activate your career operating system and to use the tools you have at your disposal can help you intentionally plan and design your way to an engaging job and meaningful career.
Note: This is a concept I am testing out, so I’d love your thoughts and feedback. Does this make sense? Am I missing something? Is the metaphor too much of a stretch? Let me know what you think!