by Judith Bowtell, Albany Lane Consulting
Climbing the linear career ladder has gone the way of telex machines and typewriters – an heirloom concept that fitted when you had one career over your working life.
In today’s gig economy and land of portfolio careers, we are more likely to move sideways between employment options in our working life: self-employment, contract engagements, permanent part-time and full-time work.
These options will increasingly be informed by our changing internal and external needs, as much or even more than by our gaining of diverse experiences and skills.
The rate of change might slow down a bit as we get older: the younger or less experienced we are the more frequently we will change jobs. Average tenure ranges from 1 year and eight months if you are under 25 up to 6 years and eight months for the 45 plus age group.[i]
However, change is inevitable as corporations and institutions flex and morph, and supple thinking is required.
Psychologists, Debora O’Neil and Diana Bilimoria[ii]call these career phases:
The idealistic achievement phase;
The pragmatic endurance phase;
The reinventive contribution phase.
Instead of age brackets, think of these stages as mind-sets that you might adopt at different points throughout your career, as your life circumstances and goals change. Indeed, you may find yourself moving between these phases, just as you move between contracts, projects and work environments.
“you may find yourself moving between these phases, just as you move between contracts, projects and work environments”
Strategies for Success – The Idealistic Achievement Stage
This is the stage where you want to give it your all. You have found a dream job or at least a job in a dream organisation. Everything is new and everything is a possibility. You have an open heart and an open will. It is going to take you closer to that big goal of finding your place in the world, achieving your goals and making an impact. So, what do you need to succeed?
- Ability to take risks
There is no better time to take risks than at this stage of your career. As you are early on the path (even a new path) you can experiment with developing your role and identity in the workplace. Ideally you will be valued for your new ideas and enthusiasm, and mistakes will be reframed as “learning opportunities”. This is the time to:
- Follow your passion – Let your heart rule over head. Plunge into a role that may not be practical and enjoy the thrill of being totally committed to work you love.
- Seek out ways to contribute – Develop more energy by achieving results within a bigger picture, creating more impact than you can achieve on your own. Be proud of the initiatives you take to improve your own working lives and those around you.
- Be a team player – Forget playing it cool and get involved with the team at work. Join in discussions and activities, be approachable and friendly (but not a pushover).
- Learn to take constructive feedback with a positive attitude – Accept that you will make mistakes and fail at this stage. If you are going to take risks, you must be prepared that feedback won’t always be positive. Develop a mindset that will listen respectfully, hear the contribution in what is said, and respond appropriately.
- Sensitivity to other people
The ability to understand others, read the mood and be adaptable to circumstances starts as soon as you begin interacting with others. Now is the time to develop your emotional intelligence to a professional level, by observation, practicing compassion and a little self-discipline and restraint.
- Develop your observer self – This is the time when you need to balance your gung-ho energy with the ability to sit back, suspend judgement, watch and listen to the world around you, especially interactions of people around you.
- Listen much more than you talk – Practice active listening, paying attention not just to what someone says but also their tone, body language, overall energy. You will quickly learn to read someone’s emotional state by paying attention to these cues, making far less mistakes when seeking advice or pitching new ideas.
- Find your voice – and the voice that will be best heard in the work environment. Learn by observation how others make points and suggestions in meetings, see what works and what does not. Then incorporate what works for you into your own style and watch your ideas take off much faster than before.
- Upgraded educational qualifications
The final point is that this is an ideal time to invest in professional education that speaks to the values, vision and goals of the organisation and sector in which you find yourself. With a seat on the bus, you would be well placed to get advice from those around you who already have the “next” dream job or fulfil your bigger career goal.
- Find a mentor – Mentors are critical at any stage of your career and at this point they will save you many expensive mistakes. Ask those that have gone before you to recommend what qualifications are truly valued in your chosen sector.
- Consider networks – One of the main benefits of post-graduate study are the people you meet and the contacts you make. I got my first work in Sydney through these networks, and these people have over 20 years become valued colleagues, clients and friends.
- Be creative and think outside the box – Education is unfortunately expensive – so don’t waste this opportunity on the PhD or MBA you think you must have to move forward. There are so many other great options – including vocational training – that might just give you the skills and networks that will make a real difference to your future and have you stand out from the crowd.
- Think big – If you are going to spend time and money on yourself, make sure it will make a real difference in your sector. Look at international options, scholarships and fellowships. Consider traineeships and attachments that take you out of your comfort zone but give you a distinctive competitive edge.
Your first “proper” job on your new career path may not last that long – but it can be a great adventure so enjoy the ride. It can also – if you approach it wisely and strategically – be a terrific jumping off point for your overall career development.
Next month: How to survive the pragmatic, endurance phase
Judith Bowtell is the Director Albany Lane Consulting and a key partner of WiserLife Australia. She is highly regarded for her leadership and executive coaching particularly with her expertise in the arts sector. If you’d like to know more Albany Lane Consulting