It’s unlikely to be a surprise to you that the rate of job change is increasing. LinkedIn data shows that over the last 20 years the number of companies’ people work for in the five years after they graduate has nearly doubled, with the highest rates of job change for people working in media and entertainment and a trend for higher rate of change for women versus men. This leads to more ‘squiggly careers’ with a need to more consciously manage the movement from job to job and company to company.
As marketers, we are all familiar with the Product Life Cycle. But fewer of us apply this framework to our careers to manage the phases of a job to ensure we extract the maximum value from each role and deliver the most significant impact.
Phase one: Job introduction
This is the easiest to grasp and identify of all the phases, because it is distinct and familiar to us all. During this phase, you can increase your impact by defining your 30/60/90 day plan to create momentum and identify small wins. Specific tactics found in the book ‘The First 90 Days’ by Harvard Business Review author Michael Watkin include being systematic about what you need to learn, level set on expectations of success with your manager and identifying supportive alliances within your new team or organisation. Also think about what you want to be known for and how you show-up in a way that is consistent with that aim.
Phase two: Personal growth
Otherwise known as ‘the steep learning curve’. The challenge of trying to make an impact while you’re still learning your job is one of the most difficult but rewarding phases and likely to happen between month three and month 12. If you’re in this phase it can feel endless, but one of the most powerful things you can focus on are success markers – self-determined indicators of your success and progress.
Identify what great looks like at month six, nine and 12 and align your activities as far as possible to achieve these goals. This is also a prime phase to develop strong feedback loops. Find three people who can give you a different perspective on your performance, such as a manager, a peer and someone who works for you. Regularly ask them questions like: “When have you seen me at my best?”, “What do you think I did well in that meeting and what would have been even better”, and “Where do you see me adding the most value to the team?”.
Phase three: Job maturity
In this phase, likely to happen between year one and year two in your job, you have strong foundational knowledge of your role and organisation and have already secured some level of success. During this phase, you want to get more specific about how you use your time to create the most value.
Through the feedback you have gathered, you will have gained insight into where you have the greatest impact and you can now craft your role to do more activity that brings your strengths into sharper focus. This job-crafting process can be relatively subtle, through a process of volunteering to work on certain projects for example, or it can be more fundamental where you review your key priorities with your manager and agree a new direction.
This is a great time to build your brand and create new initiatives that align with it. For example, I might create a career coaching or mentoring programme within my business as this aligns with my brand and passions. Think about your passions and how you can bring them to life within your organisation to increase your distinctiveness at work and increase your motivation. Often, these initiatives can also give rise to new opportunities or job extensions.
Phase four: Job decline
This is when you know you need to move on, but you’re still in the same role. Typically, job decline happens at two years plus, but the good news is that this decline is gradual and there are many positive actions you can take early in this phase to ensure you remain impactful and engaged.
The first thing is to start exploring opportunities. New roles take time and applying ‘cold’ to internal and external jobs does not set you up for success. Instead, think of four areas you are interested in exploring and set-up meetings with people for this purpose. This isn’t about applying for a job. The jobs in these areas likely don’t exist yet. Instead, treat this as an opportunity to articulate what you are great at and learn how this could create value in different areas.
Be open with your manager or HR about where you are. It’s harder to find a new employee than it is to find you a new role, especially if you’ve been doing a good job! Often the first a manager knows about this phase is when they are handed a resignation letter. Give them the opportunity to help you and provide another internal option. You don’t have to take it, but it will give you more objectivity than the slightly emotional driver of a role you’re trying to get out of.
A final action at this phase is to make sure your personal brand shows up in all the places you do. Review your LinkedIn profile, your CV and your bio. Check that they are consistent, sell your strengths and experiences and have the sense of your personal brand and what makes it distinctive.
While the duration of the phases can change, the majority of people will find themselves moving through these different stages of a job. Being aware of what phase you’re in increases your control of your squiggly career and creates a happier, more fulfilling time in role.
Helen Tupper is commercial marketing director at Microsoft and founder of Amazing If