Proactively managing your career has never been so important. The days when decisions made at university put you on a conveyor belt to the top of your chosen profession at well-defined stages are long gone. Taking personal responsibility for your career and making the most of your working life is an active and lifelong process.
Managing your career involves looking at your job situation strategically and dynamically rather than passively accepting what comes your way. Futureproofing means taking action to ensure that you are as employable in the future as you are now.
In our fast-paced world, the goals we set for our career need an alternative mode of definition. Holding a vision of what you want to achieve in ten or even 20 years is still motivational and provides direction for our actions, but we need to remain flexible and aware of how quickly business models and working patterns are changing so we can intelligently anticipate where the best opportunities will lie. Anticipation and agility are key ingredients for today’s career plans. At least once a year, set aside time to update your plan including your thoughts on how your job and that of your bosses may have altered in five years’ time. Which companies will have the winning business models? Which are the roles that will add the most value? What skills will you need to develop and be successful in those roles?
Where do you want to be?
Many of the skills and behaviours that have made people successful in the past will be even more important in navigating the next 20 years. Knowing yourself, your strengths, values and comparative advantage and finding a company and role that brings out the best in you is vital. Whilst it remains important to keep your technical skills up to date, as your career progresses developing transferable skills in leadership, communication, innovation, interpersonal skills and resilience will be an increasing differentiator between those who get promotion or those who stagnate. Developing your emotional intelligence, to better manage yourself and your relationships with others, will also pay dividends.
How will you get there?
Whilst your long-term vision works to inspire you, a concrete plan broken into small steps and to identify short-term goals is the best way to ensure action and progress. Where possible, take the initiative to develop the activities in your current position that help you acquire the new skills you wish to learn and look for opportunities to extend the scope of your role and raise your internal profile.
Finding a mentor/sponsor within your firm is also a smart way to progress within your existing company. Learn from them and get the right people to notice your achievements.
Cultivating your external profile and network is no longer optional at any level, and is an essential part of successful career management. Whilst the number of contacts on LinkedIn is no measure of networking success, your digital footprint is an important part of how you present yourself to the marketplace, whether you are currently looking for a job or not. LinkedIn can be a great way of managing your network, ensuring contact details are always up to date and making it easy for you to stay in touch and reach out to them when you can assist or you need help. But always bear in mind that your network needs to be developed offline as well as online. For example, e.g. attending conferences and networking events by industry bodies such as the CFA can broaden as well as deepen your network. A strong network will be your best source of information on industry trends, such as which companies are expanding and other valuable (and often prescient) information. Recent studies show that over 40% of job applications now come from networking rather than advertisements.
A job for life is increasingly rare; indeed, many people will have several completely different careers in their lifetime, some by choice, others less so. By regularly reviewing your career plan and adjusting your goals and skill set for a changing world, you should be better prepared to deal with the inevitable external shocks along the way and ready to make the most of evolving opportunities.
"Knowing yourself, your strengths, values and comparative advantage and finding a company and role that brings out the best in you is vital."