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Do you have a career growth strategy that maximises your potential?

It’s now time to intentionally create and not react to your future.

Job shopping is getting more strategic, intense and difficult. There’s now a vast pool of unemployed job seekers, including professionals, who are competing on price, not on value.

When job seekers compete on price (like a commodity), older or more experienced workers will naturally feel ‘discriminated’. Rightly so. Employers will inevitably hire the cheapest or fastest person. A younger person can do the same job to keep the payroll cost low.

Employees naturally want to be paid more for their accumulated years of work experience. But if those working years cannot be effectively translated into tangible value and accomplishments for future employers, then they will not be employable at their asking price in the future. They have, unfortunately, reached their peak of the performance bell curve. Eventually, they will ‘die’ off. That is, unless, they can reinvent, upskill or upgrade themselves. They have to keep growing and creating more value!

The ability to create value for employers is vital for the future of work.

We need a strategy or plan for everything

People do not plan to fail. They fail to plan for the future and implement their strategies and plans.

Here’s the thing. 

If you were planning to build your own house, would you forgo drafting up a detailed house plan? Would you randomly build your house with different building materials and any colour scheme that comes to mind? Are you hoping or praying that it will become a beautiful home?

Likewise, as a professional or expert on your field or industry, would you forgo developing a career growth strategy as a roadmap where you can systematically but intentionally build a meaningful career, job-by-job? Or is your professional career a random collection of jobs and experiences that does not tell a good career story or narrative?

Hence, the need to develop and implement your career growth strategy

Generally, there are two key career growth strategies people will think about:

  • Staying at one organisation for many years and getting promoted from within regularly.
  • Constantly moving from organisation to another organisation, gaining a more senior position or title with each organisation you join.

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Mistakes professionals make

The #1 mistake professionals make is spending too much time performing their current work

They do not make time to:

  • Think about their future.
  • Plan out their career (or even their calling).
  • Implement their career strategy.

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Carve out 5% to 10% of your time daily to intentionally implement your career growth strategy. 

The key is to network your way into your next job

As many executive or professional jobs are not publically advertised, professionals must also be networking themselves into their next job

Networking takes time. It takes effort. This is the only way to get ahead of other job seekers. You have to work on it daily!

Networking is very important in strategy because it’s all about relationships. The vast majority of career opportunities come through networks.

The landmark research on how people find good jobs was conducted in the early 1970s by Mark Granovetter. It remains very relevant today despite the big changes in roles and recruitment. 

Studying professional, technical and managerial job-seekers, Granovetter found that most jobs (and especially good ones) were attained not through direct application or other formal means. 

That is, good jobs were NOT found by submitting a resume in response to a job listing.

Instead, good jobs were only found through personal contacts. These are jobs that someone inside the organisation told the applicant about or recommended him or her to.

Six dimensions of career growth

There are six career growth dimensions that you need to cover in your career growth strategy to maximise your potential — career goal progress, professional development, promotion speed, remuneration growth, promotion equity and job rotation.

Intentionally cover one or more of these career growth dimensions over a one-year, two-year or even a five-year timeframe.

Ask the following questions when developing your career growth strategy.

(1) Career goal progress — My current job:

  • Moves me closer to my career goals? (A career goal is a well-defined statement explaining the profession that an individual intends to pursue throughout his or her career. Look for careers that match your interests, skill set, and salary requirements. Explore the job market and look at the lists of growing or in-demand careers.)
  • Supports my short-term and long-term career goals including my professional growth?
  • Sets the right foundation and direction for the realisation of my career goals and professional growth?
  • Provides me with good opportunities to achieve my career goals?

(2) Professional development — My current job encourages me to:

  • Work in different departments in the organisation to gain new job-related skills and knowledge?
  • Accumulate richer work experiences and in-depth understanding of the organisation?
  • Improve my professional capabilities and competencies — internally and externally?
  • Network with different colleagues within the organisation? (This will be good for your future networking.)

(3) Promotion speed — My current job increases:

  • The probability of being promoted within the organisation?
  • My promotion speed especially when compared with my colleagues?

(4) Remuneration growth — My current job:

  • Have grown my salary quickly when compared with my colleagues?
  • Will allow my salary to grow quickly in the future?

(5) Promotion equity — My current employer::

  • Fairly rewards me for the responsibilities and accountabilities I have?
  • Has fair and objective policies and processes for internal promotion?
  • Makes fair and objective promotion decisions?

(6) Job rotation — My current employer:

  • Encourages me to rotate my jobs or work within the organisation?
  • Has broadened my knowledge and skills in other fields and areas through many job rotation opportunities?

Professionals need to be growing continuously

Professionals and experts need to grow continuously to command a higher salary. They will go through three phases of growth:

  • Phase 1 — The exploration and mastering phase occurs in the first ten years of service. This is where budding experts and professionals start their professional career as a generalist. I always tell my clients to absorb any experience like a sponge and intentionally create opportunities for doing so. Unless you try things out, you would not know what you like and don’t like.
  • Phase 2 — The specialisation phase occurs during the period of 10 to 15 years of service, depending on the industry. This is when professionals focus on particular areas of specialisation or expertise. When this occurs, they are promoted and rewarded. The speed at which these occur will depend on the organisation they are working in. It also includes the opportunities they intentionally create for themselves, in and outside the organisation.
  • Phase 3 — The expert phase occurs when professionals become competent experts in their field or industry. The end product would be a versatile expert who is also knowledgeable about and familiar with the subject matter. As experts in their field, they intentionally create opportunities to teach or train others — a good expert is also a great teacher!

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Professionals must constantly preserve and increase their value to others by intentionally accumulating their skills, experience and competence over time. Otherwise, they will become worthless and unemployable.

Using a wine analogy, we have to preserve wine that turns into a priceless vintage, rather than into vinegar. There are techniques for preserving wine. 

The benefits of developing and implementing a career growth strategy

Benefit 1

The strategy sets a general direction of where you want to go in life.

The strategy is your roadmap. It articulates your career goals and intentionally builds a successful but fulfilling life. 

The roadmap helps you to become financially secure and to do the things that you want to do in life. It is your foundation upon which you can fulfil your vision and purpose in life. 

You can become more secure in yourself. Your identity is made known through the strategy.

If you do not know your identity and purpose in life, then it is time to find that out. There are tools and coaches to help you. Reach to me and let us have a chat. 

Time is a precious commodity that you cannot afford to lose or squander. It is something that can never be replaced. Once spent, it can never be recovered. So, don’t squander your time. Focus its use on productive or meaningful things. 

Benefit 2

The strategy helps you tell a compelling human story about yourself and what you have done.

We spend roughly one-third of our lives working, another one-third sleeping and the rest doing other things.

Hence, it is common for people to ask, “What do you do?

This is a modern-day question. It’s our preoccupation with work and naturally so. Humans have a habit of tying our identity to our careers rather than to a broader — and often more interesting — sense of self. But it is a starting point.

The reality is that our work is how we socially set ourselves. 

We, therefore, need to intentionally curate our life story. Our career growth strategy gives us that practical outline for us to intentionally write out our life story!

Benefit 3

The strategy helps you to intentionally acquire the right skills, experiences and qualifications for professional growth

Just like a builder building a house brick-by-brick according to a house plan, you must intentionally acquire the right skills, experiences and qualifications to build your career, job-by-job

Let us say that you like helping people solve their problems and achieve their business goals. The profession that does this includes an accountant. To be an accountant, you need to intentionally:

  • Get a business or accounting degree.
  • Get qualified and be part of a professional body.
  • Acquire key skills like analytical skills, communication skills, math skills, and organisational skills.
  • Work with a diverse set of clients to gain experiences across all aspects of the business world.

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These are considered leading indicators of success, especially if you want to be an accountant. 

Your career growth strategy leads you through the right path. This may include doing stepping stone jobs that will lead you towards your ultimate career goal.

Benefit 4

The strategy helps you to identify and close potential gaps in your skills, experiences and qualifications

Knowing where you want to go, you can identify potential gaps in your skills, experiences and qualifications. Your strategy helps you with the all-important gap analysis.

For me, I wanted to have operational experience when I was working as a consultant. Having theoretical knowledge without hands-on operational knowledge would not add much value to my future work. I intentionally sought out an employer-mentor who taught me everything I needed to know about managing and running budget hotels. The experience was invaluable. I acquired experience in human resource management, engineering, strategic planning, revenue maximisation, customer service, etc. Being an expert in HR, I even taught budding HR practitioners in their craft!

You may need to attend courses or enrol in a university to enhance your knowledge in particular areas. This is where you need to invest in yourself financially.

Benefit 5

The strategy helps you answer interview behavioural questions and secure that future job

The richness and depth of skills and experiences can only be acquired when there is a career growth strategy that is executed well. 

Your strategy can help you answer behavioural questions like, “Tell me about your greatest accomplishment on the job” or “Tell me about the difficult situation you encountered at work and how you overcome it”.

Until you have experienced something, it will be hard to convey with confidence, answers to behavioural-type questions that are commonly asked during job interviews.

Therefore, reverse engineer the answers to these behavioural questions. If you are struggling with answering these questions now, then it is time to intentionally seek out experiences and accomplishments that will enable you to answer these questions effectively in the future. This will put you in the driver’s seat when applying for future jobs!

Let us start with the end in mind

Here’s a key trend that all job seekers must understand. They must show, not tell or brag about how good they are. They must produce verifiable accomplishments that are quantifiable

Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for quantifiable numbers in your resume to quickly tell them whether you are a performer or not. This also applies to soft and hard skills and experiences.

How many times have you seen these sentences in a resume?

The answer, “many times.”

The question for me is, “so what?”

So what if you tell me that you are a “high achiever”. 

Says who? Where is the evidence to back it up?

Focus on the employer, not you

The focus of your resume is NOT on you! (There are too many “I”s and “my” statements in the example above.)

John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address inspired children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service. His historic words, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” challenged every American to contribute in some way to the public good.

Likewise, don’t ask how much your employer can pay you, but ask what value you can create for the organisation. Seek value creation first and money will follow!

The focus of your resume is on your future employer, not you!

Creating value for the employer

Let me reiterate. It is all about what you can do for the employer. 

The focus should be on what key accomplishment you can produce for the organisation with your skills, experience and qualifications. You have to effectively translate your skills, experience and qualifications into future successes and accomplishments for the employer.

The reality is that employers buy on future value creation, not on past personal subjective assertions about yourself. They want tangible evidence to show that you can accomplish their work in return for the salary they will be paying you. Employers must justify the salary they pay each employee. For them, it is a return on investment. You must prove to them that you can give them a positive return in investment!

Quantifying your past accomplishments

When you can quantify your past achievements and results, you can effectively demonstrate future value creation and worth to your employer. 

If you are receiving $100,000 per year in salary, then you should be creating value over $140,000 per year for your employer! (It includes salary cost plus benefits, taxes, etc.)

At job interviews, don’t just say to the hiring manager, “I wrote articles for a local publisher.” 

Instead, quantify your achievements by saying, “I am writing ten 2,000-word articles per week for ABC publisher. The publisher as 100,000 readers located in five districts. Their average reader satisfaction score is 4.7 over 5.

Focus your achievements on how manyhow often and how much.

Here’s another example. Don’t say, “I do fundraising for cancer research.

Instead, quantify your accomplishments in fundraising. Say that you have “increased fundraising contributions for cancer research by 30% over the last two years and have raised a total of $100,000 in the last financial year.

Numbers easily quantify success. They quickly give the hiring manager the motivation to hire you! 

No more BS or fluff. 

Subjective assertions about yourself are eliminated. 

Numbers separate you from the other job seekers.

Reverse engineer the outcome you want and close any achievement gaps in your resume

Always start with the end in mind. 

Working backwards from what employers are looking for, you can ‘accumulate’ achievements that you can then use in your resume and job interviews in the future. But if you do not intentionally plan for these achievements to occur over your working life, your resume will NOT be compelling for future employers. 

When there are achievement gaps in your resume, it is time to do something about it!

Here’s the thing. You cannot turn back time

Do not be regretful.

This is where a career growth strategy comes in. When it is done early, it sets the roadmap for you to intentionally build up your achievements, job-by-job, over time. 

Rather than reacting to circumstances, your career growth strategy can create a positive future for yourself. It also creates a compelling human story that you can tell about yourself. This is important as storytelling is becoming more mainstream. It also differentiates you from other job seekers. The story emotionally connects you with the work and organisation you want to work in.

In summary, lay a solid foundation for your career growth strategy

Here are the practical steps you require to develop and implement your career growth strategy:

  • Know who you are and your purpose in life.
  • Establish a clear vision of what you want to achieve with your life by knowing your WHY.
  • Set goals that are personal and meaningful to you including your career goals. Do set goals in the other six areas of your life.
  • Develop strategies and plans for achieving your goals. These will realise this vision and purpose in life including your career growth strategy.
  • Understand your limiting beliefs and things that may stop you from achieving your goals. Overcome those barriers.
  • Staying motivated and committed by rigorously executing your strategies and plans without getting distracted by everyday challenges. It is easy to get caught up with daily work. We forget to look beyond our circumstances and into our future.
  • List down your non-negotiable criteria when evaluating which employer to work for. Do not waste time pursuing jobs that do not fit your criteria and career goals. It is best to walk away. Ideally, there should be an alignment between your values and purpose and the organisation’s values and purpose.
  • Update and optimise your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile. Project your specialised niche and skills and quantifiable accomplishments to employers through your keyword optimised resume and LinkedIn profile. These documents are your ‘marketing brochure’ about yourself, your career narrative and how you can add or create value for your employers.
  • Prepare job interview answers to behavioural questions. Behavioural questions are commonly used in job interviews.
  • Identify the industry you want to play in.
  • Identify the skills, experience, competencies and certifications required in that industry to achieve your career goals.
  • Identify the equivalent job titles that will utilise your skills, experience, competencies and certifications. You will need to understand the industry jobs titles and what they will be called.
  • Target and list down your ideal employers that require similar job titles and your skills, experience, competencies and certifications. Create a wishlist of dream job employers that you are emotionally connected to.
  • Network your way into these organisations. Once you have your career growth strategy, narrative and emotional connections clarified and defined, it now time to connect with like-minded people in the organisations you would love to work in. It could include people in the industry or people you admire.
  • Conduct informational interviews with people in the targetted organisations you want to work in to validate your assumptions and criteria. Set up 15-minute information interviews with people from your industry or with people with the same skills as you. Do so after you have done some preliminary research about these people and their background and experience.
  • Get around the hidden job market and the applicant tracking system. With more job seekers flooding the job market, many potential employers will avoid going into the open market to advertise for job applicants.
  • Curating and sharing relevant information on social media platforms, etc. When you know more about your contacts, you will know what they are interested in.
  • Serving people in your networks by giving them value. Indirectly tell them to remember you. Once you have made the connections, nurture them. Constantly keep your name and brand on top of their minds by giving value to them. Unconditionally serve your contacts by giving them links to an article of interest when you email them.
  • Continuously reading, upskilling and updating your knowledge. This is where lifelong learning comes in. You can’t serve people and curate and share relevant information if you have nothing to give.
  • Investing in yourself. The more you want out from your career, the more you need to invest time in developing and implementing your career growth strategy. This may also include spending money to increase your knowledge or to network with other professionals. It may also include hiring a coach or mentor.money in courses.
  • Enhancing your brand. In executing your career growth strategy, you are also enhancing your branding.

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[The original and full article is found here]

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