What is your next career move?
The start to a new year often heralds thoughts of a career change. Here’s five tips that will help hone your career management plan. 2016 is beginning to shape up as another year of employment uncertainty with market volatility, employers under cost pressure and a federal election thrown into the mix.
The typical approach to this uncertainty is to conservatively keep your head down in your current role. The more successful approach, however, is to actively take charge of your career and make positive decisions to develop and progress. While we all hope that downsizing or redundancy will never happen to us, it’s such a common feature of the current employment landscape that we owe it to our careers to be on the front foot in terms of our own career management. Don’t wait for events to make decisions for you; develop your career on your own terms.
Each year, our organisation supports hundreds of people experiencing career transition, usually as a result of redundancy. As a result of this, we clearly see the opportunities that a career change can present.
Our latest career outcomes reports show that:
Most people choose to change direction: only 35 percent of clients move into the ‘same role in the same industry’ with 41.2 percent of clients changing either their role or industry and almost a quarter (23.5 percent) of clients choosing to do something completely different such as starting their own business, having a sea change or doing some contracting.
Flexibility is an option: While most people still need to work full-time, one in three clients choose to transition into more flexible work arrangements such as part-time, temporary work or fixed-term contracts.
Promotions are available: Even though most clients are technically unemployed, almost a quarter (22 percent) move to a role that is a step up or promotion from their previous position.
You’re worth it: 53 percent of our clients move to a role with a higher remuneration package and, for one in seven clients, this increase is significant at over 20 percent higher than their previous role. This tells us that, with a strong articulation of your assets and drivers, the market will pay you what this is worth.
Career management tips
Here are five tips that will help you get the most out of your career, regardless of your role or your job level.
1. Find your career sweet spot
Most people tend to move from one job to the next without too much thought or planning and then look around and think, ‘How did I get here?’ Not surprisingly, few people are truly engaged in their role, with 85 percent of staff actively or passively looking for other roles [LinkedIn, 2014].
However, our careers are ‘engaged’ and accelerate when we combine the things that we’re ‘good’ at, our ‘passion’ and the ‘opportunities’ available. This is called the career sweet spot and we have more control over these factors than we realise.
The ‘good’: identify your key strengths and assets, particularly any strengths that are unique. This may include transferable skills such as managing people, project coordination, vendor management, sales or customer service.
Your ‘passion’: what is important to you right now? What do you love to do the most? What are you passionate about? When you take the time to identify what drives you, then you are better placed to focus on the career opportunities that are right for you. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius.
The ‘opportunity’: While this has more to do with external factors, there are things that you can do to influence your opportunities. Rather than be a passenger, always have your radar on for opportunities both inside and outside the business and follow the tips in this guide to broaden your scope.
Networking is not just for the extroverted; it is an important career management activity. In fact, out of all the ways to connect with career opportunities, more of our clients find their new career via their network (44 percent) than any other source such as job boards (25 percent) or recruiters (18 percent).
Again, don’t wait for external factors to play a role, it is good technique to keep your network activated at all times and LinkedIn is making this a lot easier. Connect with people, find out what they are doing and ask lots of questions. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities arise when we take the time to stay connected.
3. Focus on career enrichment
Remember the traditional vertical career path when a team member became a team leader, then a manager, then senior manager, before finally rising to the ranks of executive? These days are now behind us with a combination of flat structures, portfolio careers and flexible work arrangements dominating the career landscape. As a result, if you are just diligently working away to reach the next rung in the ladder, you may miss out.
Career enrichment is about focusing on growing your current role so that your 2016 is defined by learning, development and added responsibility. Engage your manager as well as other internal resources in HR or learning and development to identify the areas where you can stretch yourself. This gives your career momentum even if you do stay at the same level. It also makes you more marketable should you decide to move on.
4. Define your brand
Your brand is the combined view that the business, the market and your network have of you. This is separate from on-the-job performance. Organisations are filled with people who perform well, yet their careers are limited by a poor brand. In order to progress your career, you need to focus on both.
Think about your current brand in the business and reflect on the aspirational brand that you want to create. What do you want to be known for? What makes you unique? Who is your key audience? Once you’ve got a clear brand message to promote, you’ll be able to assess your decisions in terms of whether they support this brand or dilute the brand.
5. Dump the five-year plan to be agile
This may be controversial; however, here’s the logic. Our experience shows that with the pace of life in general, a lot happens in five years and most of it can’t be foreseen. Locking yourself into the five-year goal may not facilitate the agility required to adapt to changing situations as they develop.
A more targeted long-term plan is to define the next two to three steps, moves or roles that support your overall career direction and trajectory. Don’t be prescriptive about the timeline. Momentum, progress and development are the important factors.
Finally, there is real opportunity out there for those who choose to take the initiative in their career to network, develop in their skills, build their brand and understand their career sweet spot. These steps will guide you in this regard and help you manage your career with confidence and success.
Christopher Paterson is the managing director of ALCHEMY Career Management, a firm that supports individuals to transition their career and assists companies adapting to organisational change.