Our careers are increasingly uncertain. Changes within our industries, customer bases and operating models – combined with economic uncertainty and the impact of technology and automation on the jobs we do and the way we do them – are making careers much harder to predict and plan.
Instead of seeking certainty in our careers for 2019, we should be exploring scenarios. Scenarios enable us to think about different options for how our careers might evolve. Reflecting on which career scenarios give you more energy and identifying a set of actions that can be taken to turn a hypothetical scenario into a viable opportunity is a more appropriate approach for the careers we are all experiencing.
Many people wait to think about their next move until they have decided they definitely want to change roles or when they are forced to make that decision due to organisational change. This lack of proactive effort puts you on the back foot.
It takes time to explore and make informed choices about your career. Being on the back foot takes that time away and can lead to making reactive decisions based on emotional (‘I feel like a failure if I don’t have a job’) or financial (‘I can’t afford not to have a job’) triggers. Both of these may well be valid points of view, however a reactive approach leaves you with fewer opportunities for consideration and increases the likelihood of making a bad decision.
There are three core scenarios that are likely to be relevant for the majority of us this year and therefore worthy of some reflection and exploration.
Scenario 1: The internal move
This scenario will feel positive for you if you feel personally connected to the organisation, its purpose and its products; if you enjoy and respect the people you work with and if you feel that your skillset is valuable and useful. These elements are hard to find in your employer. You are a long way towards being your best at work if these factors are present, and if you can tick several of these in respect of your current employer you should definitely prioritise this opportunity for exploration.
It may be that you can see the role that you would like to do next internally. In this instance, don’t wait until it’s advertised. Instead, engage the manager of the team and explain your interest. Explore your skills match and skills gap and validate a development plan that would enable you to demonstrate your commitment to growth. Ask the manager how you could contribute to the work of the team or gain exposure to projects they are working on alongside your job.
If you can’t see the ‘next’ job, get clear on what you are great at and how it creates value for your organisation. Have meetings with different people in the business who could be informal mentors and may be able to open your eyes or connect you to new opportunities.
A conversation might sound something like: “One of the things that I learned last year was that I have a particular strength in managing stakeholders (for example) and that this is particularly valuable in an organisation like ours. I’m keen to explore different roles that would enable me to apply and further develop this strength. What could this look like in your area?”
Scenario 2: The external move
A desire to advance, a bad manager, a lack of engagement and a higher salary are the top reasons that people leave their company. Attrition is on the rise, meaning you are more likely than ever to be exploring or acting on this scenario. It’s not all plain sailing though. There are a lot more unknowns with a new company. A positive interview experience does not always translate to a positive experience in role and the green grass that attracted us can look a little less verdant when we’re on the other side.
The aim, therefore, of exploring this scenario is to increase the likelihood of making a successful transition should this be something you do act upon. To achieve this, focus on your network, your values and your profile. From a network perspective, identify the organisations or industries that appeal to you and identify one person you could speak to for each that could help you to understand the reality. Set these meetings up as a priority in 2019. Remember that this isn’t about asking or applying for a job, it’s about gaining insight and understanding.
Secondly, think about what motivates and drives you. Knowing this can help you to make better decisions when you are looking at possible external roles by acting as a filter. If you’ve not spent any time thinking about this, the ‘Values’ episode of my Squiggly Careers podcast will help.
Finally, your profile is important. As a minimum, focus on your LinkedIn profile. Update your summary section, so that its current and reflective of your strengths and start asking for some references that are likely to be consistent with the impression you are trying to create. Be conscious about who you ask and think about whether their recommendation could lend you credibility in future moves.
Scenario 3: The side project
Side projects are increasingly becoming of interest for people who want to turn hobbies into more productive enterprises or to develop their strengths in new contexts. They can be beneficial for employers as they can lead to better developed strengths and increased creativity and engagement from employees, who feel they have the freedom to work on side projects openly and transparently.
If this scenario appeals, think about what your side project might look like and what the easiest and simplest test of its viability could be. Many people get stuck thinking they need the perfect idea or product before they can start a side project, but even putting your thoughts on paper and sharing it with a few people is a step forward to making this scenario more feasible for your future.
Be realistic about what ‘good’ will look like and share what you’re doing and why with your manager. From personal experience, bringing your manager on board with what you’re doing and resolving any concerns they have about your commitment is beneficial.
We have the ability to craft and shape our career. While we might not have full control of what opportunities arise or when, committing time to exploring scenarios is a powerful way of putting yourself in the driving seat.
Helen Tupper is founder of Amazing If