Has your career management paradigm shifted since the global financial crisis?
It’s five years since the GFC rocked our world. In the USA, Europe and then Australia, organisations made swift and brutal changes, resulting in the largest round of redundancies ever. Move forward to 2013, and another wave has reached these shores, impacting some of those earlier survivors.
In my experience, for every person brimming with optimism about what a redundancy offers them, there’s another anxious individual treading water. Absorbed by their work for so long, they’ve often overlooked their employability and career options, and face the change with great trepidation.
In his book The Start Up of You, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman encourages us to challenge common assumptions about career paths, and expand the reach of our networks to gain a competitive edge, and land better opportunities.
What we now know, but so many of us fail to embrace, is that traditional career paths, along with the professional development previous generations enjoyed, no longer exist.
Our job is to train and invest in ourselves.
Searching for a job only when you’re unemployed or unhappy at work has been replaced by the mandate to always be generating opportunities…if you want to seize the new opportunities and meet the challenges of today’s fractured career landscape, you need to think and act like you’re running a start-up: your career.
Just like Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs, who are self-reliant, resourceful, ambitious, adaptive and networked, Hoffman says we need to think of our careers being in permanent ‘beta’ mode — an ongoing work in progress. This involves a life-long commitment to continuous personal growth, where each day provides opportunities to learn and do more with our life and careers — in order to adapt and evolve. A zig-zag rather than a linear career path.
Hoffman’s refreshing approach is a long way from where most people are during career transition.
Here are some of my takeaways from the book, to get you primed for the next phase of your career — whatever that looks like:
Develop a competitive advantage
Understand and articulate what makes you special, and differentiates you from other professionals. What do you offer that is rare and valuable?
Assets, Aspirations & Market Realities are the components of a good career plan.
- Assets are the things you have right now – both hard (tangible) and soft (intangible).
- Aspirations are your deepest wishes, ideas, goals and vision, regardless of your assets and external environment.
- Assets won’t give you an edge unless people want and are prepared to pay for them. Where are the industries, companies, places and people with momentum? These are your market realities. Make these work for you rather than against you.
Plan to adapt
Career plans should leverage your assets, set you in the direction of your aspirations, and account for the market realities. Just like entrepreneurs, we should know our options and be prepared to switch course when needed.
A,B,Z career planning is a more adaptive approach, and encourages trial and error.
- Plan A is what you’re doing now with your competitive advantage, which may require minor changes, and re-iterations.
- Plan B is what you ‘pivot’ to, when you need to change your goal or how to get there. Much the same as Plan A, Plan B eventually becomes Plan A.
- Plan Z is the fall-back position. When all else fails this is the lifeboat, what keeps the home fires burning. And it allows you to take risk in Plans A & B.
There is no beginning, middle, or end to a career journey; no matter how old you are or at what stage, you will be always planning and adapting.
Prioritise learning: Ask yourself “Which plan will grow my soft assets faster?” “Which plan offers the most learning potential?”
Learn by doing: Practical knowledge is best developed by doing, not just thinking or planning. Actions, not plans, generate lessons that help you test your hypothesis against reality.
Make small reversible bets: Good Plan As can be stopped, reversed or morphed into a Plan B to minimise the cost of failure. Iterate bit by bit. Learn experience by experience.
Think 2 steps ahead: If unsure of the 1st or 2nd step, pick a first step with a high option value – one which will lead to a broad range of options eg management consulting. A good Plan A offers flexibility to pivot to a range of possible Plan Bs.
Maintain an identity separate from specific employers: Your LinkedIn headline should be personal brand or asset focused. Start a blog, develop a public reputation and portfolio of work. This creates a professional identity that you can take with you when you shift jobs. You own yourself.
It takes a network: Be interested in your professional network, and support others if you want to accelerate your career. Establish a diverse team of allies and advisors with whom you grow over time – people are the source of key resources, information and opportunities, and act as gatekeepers. Relationships matter – the people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become.
Build genuine relationships: Forget the transactional old-school one-way networking. Relationship builders help people first, and prioritise high quality relationships over large numbers of connections. They focus on collaborative long term relationships and search for common ground and shared interests. The best way to engage people is through the people you know. Good connections will influence you, change how you think and open and close certain career doors, sometimes without you knowing it.
Can a little Silicon help you build a more sustainable career?