The start of the year and the usual talk of goals and planning for the year ahead although this year of course this is in the context of the current global pandemic…
At this time of year, many goals relate to health and fitness. Talk of ‘Dry January’, Veganuary and getting fit although this year the latter will need to be outside or in our homes – gyms will lie largely empty.
This is all great and important but the same thought is needed for your career. Without due care and attention, it can stagnate or worse you end up in a situation that you really didn’t want to end up in. With a bit of thought and time, more positive outcomes can be achieved. You need to be ‘career fit’.
Where and how to start to get ‘career fit’
- Time – you need to, regularly, allocate some time to think about your career. Plan it for a time when you can have some head space, whether that be first thing in the morning or last thing in the day. This needs to become a regular slot to progress whatever plan you come up with.
- Gather any useful insights – this could include:
- Feedback received.
- Any outcomes from profiling or psychometric tests e.g. strengths profile.
- Observations you have had from others such as mentors, trusted colleagues.
- Any reading material – articles/books you already have that you could use to support your career development.
- Take notes – find somewhere to note your thoughts and to do some planning, this might be in a traditional notebook or in an online document.
- Explore – consider what your next career step might be:
- A step up – is this possible in your current company?
- A lateral move to get some experience in a different function/area?
- A company change?
- A career change?
- Gap analysis – next look at what gaps you have that may hinder achieving your desired next step.
- Make a plan – decide what you need to do to close the gaps you have identified and over what time period you aim to do that.
- Support – consider what support you need. This may just be reading materials, an online course, input from a colleague or mentor or working with a third party career expert, so you have accountability and input from a specialist.
‘Gaps’ to work on
Gap analysis is an important step to take, sometimes gaps are very obvious. Particularly if your boss has outlined clearly what you need to do achieve the next step up. However, sometimes they aren’t clear and you need help in identifying them.
I have identified nine, often neglected, skills that help individuals progress their careers:
The way you engage with people affects whether they form positive relationships with you or not.
Top tip: Consider carefully how you want to come across (thinking of it as three words often helps). This needs to be genuine and achievable for you. Find out more about defining your personal brand.
Managing Senior Relationships
Whether you like it or not, senior leaders make decisions about your career. Investing in these relationships is likely to have a profound effect on not only your day-to-day involvement but crucially your career path overall.
Top tip: Write down who you need to know internally at a senior level – people who can make your day to day work easier and those who impact your career progression.
Managing ‘Office Politics’ Positively
‘Office Politics’ is largely unavoidable where you have different people with varying beliefs, assumptions and values. Those who know how to navigate it positively are more likely to progress.
Top tip: Ask a (very trusted) colleague what they think your motivations are at work e.g. why you come to work, how you regard and treat your colleagues, how ambitious you are. Do their answers match how you think you come across?
Building Relationships with Clients and Prospects
Particularly in a service business, how you deal with clients and prospective clients can set you apart from your competitors.
Top tip: What do you think your clients value about working with you beyond your ability to deliver the top-class service they require? How do you make them feel? Consider their body language and how they reacted to you last time you engaged with them.
Moving on from Negative Feedback
Being able to hear negative feedback, discern how you need to react to it and move forward is key to your career progress.
Top tip: Reflect on any negative feedback you have received that still impacts how you interact at work. Jot down what it was and the impact it’s still having.
You probably spend a lot of time in meetings where you need to be able to contribute effectively and have influence. Without the ability to effectively manage and participate positively in meetings, your impact is dramatically reduced which affects your career.
Top tip: Consider what you find challenging about running and participating in meetings. Note these down, along with any negative behaviours you may repeatedly display. Consider what positive behaviours you could adopt instead.
Managing a Team Effectively
With increased seniority, it’s likely you will need to manage people. This requires some skill development to make sure your team is an asset, not a burden, and contributes well to the business.
Top tip: You are a role model for your team; are you present enough? And when you are present, what are you actually role modelling for them? Note down your thoughts.
Networking to Get Results
A solid professional network is not only essential if you have business development responsibilities but is incredibly valuable from a personal career perspective too. Too few think about their network before they really need it. Read my guide to networking at events.
Consider whether you have networking objectives and a strategy – is it effective?
Be Prepared to Get Your Next Role
Being unprepared for career progression, risks you being stuck in a role that is no longer fulfilling you. Going for great opportunities takes a lot of preparation. You should have everything up to date and at your fingertips so that applying for an opportunity is effortless. My guide to getting a new role will help you get prepared.
Top tip: Do your CV and LinkedIn profile accurately reflect who you are, your experience and your career aspirations? Make any necessary changes/updates to your CV and LinkedIn profile now and regularly.
Sign up for my short email series The Nine Neglected Skills needed for career success, including the link to an e-Booklet with lots more tips and advice on each skill.
I hope this helps you get ‘career fit’ this year, it feels hard at first but once you start making time to work on your career, you won’t regret it.