You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.
Sir Richard Branson, Founder & Chairman of Virgin Group.
Accelerating careers is all about taking risks, doing the impossible, and learning to fail but dealing with the VUCA syndromes (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) is the most important requirement to managing the day-to-day challenges and also have a successful career journey. However, successful aspirants keep away from the following career approaches since they seem to tarnish one’s leadership credential — Stale Thinking (Careers that align with degree, education, and experience); Musical Chairs (I will occupy the next leadership chair that is vacant); Lane Looking (FOMO - Fear of being Missed out); Spaghetti method (See what sticks – grab every single opportunity you can!); and Status quo (Choose the path of least resistance).
So, how does one go about defining the career journey? The process starts with some key questions:
- What are the career choices I have within/outside my organization? What is my dream job?
- How do I build the skills and knowledge to qualify and compete for those?
- How do I perform well in my current role and prepare for my next move?
- Who can support me and be my sponsor (within or outside my current organization)?
- How do I explore and validate my search?
- What are the key career stallers that I need to be aware of?
In order to determine the “career path” and the direction while moving the needle on the “career clock”, it is important that one deciphers the “True North” from the “Career Compass” and work on the different directions/dimensions of your capabilities, values, and beliefs.
N – Articulate the True North — values, beliefs, vision, and purpose of life and career
E – Ascertain what brings excitement — enjoyable experiences and career expectations
W – Determine how you are wired, who you are, and why you want to do what you want to do
S – Identify the key skills and strengths one possesses
Career Acceleration can be through different ways. Experts suggest a multi-pronged approach that can be planned and structured like lateral, diagonal, step-down, or step-up moves. The aim is to complete the developmental gaps by way of exploration and enriching the work experience through multiple career assignments and learning activities. Fix-it assignments, turnaround assignments, strategic roles, exposure to P&L, complex tasks, start-up experience, crisis manager roles etc. are all great examples of bridging the developmental gaps while preparing oneself for the big career move at the end of the developmental path. In essence, it is a continuous learning approach (Bersin by Deloitte) that draws learnings from the environment, by way of various experiences that provide the right exposure beyond education. Networking and learning from inspiring leaders add to the whole mission.
While pursuing the learning that is required to enable career acceleration, it is important to protect your personal brand and reputation along with building a network of sponsors and long-term relationships with stakeholders that can support in the career journey. It is highly evident from research studies that skills and competencies contribute to only 30 percent of the career progress and a major part of success is the “how” and the “how well” of what you do in terms of performance and results. Establishing and communicating your brand is key to making progress in the right direction. Looking for visibility in high impact and challenging roles in order to be part of a succession plan that helps in accelerating career while also understanding the cultural underpinnings and the land mines and reach the finish line is important.
Contemporary research on career evolution from Korn Ferry, CCL and DDI suggests that while an individual is walking the career journey, he/she needs to go through the following experiences that contributes anywhere from a 30 percent of success as a first level leader up to a 90 percent of success at a CEO level in terms of leadership effectiveness. These formative career experiences are critical success elements of accelerated careers and also bridge the leadership gap through on-the-job experience. Usually, the talent department orchestrates these valuable learnings for the high potentials but in the absence of a pro-active talent planning and succession program, it might fall on the shoulders of the individual to pursue these experiences:
- Building external relations
- Managing the inherited problems and challenges
- Crisis management
- Business growth
- Start-up experience
- Product development
To summarize the key steps to career planning and career accelerations can be the following:
EXPLORE career paths and opportunities within/outside your organization
CONVEY your message
CONNECT your dots
DELIVER to your audience
MANAGE your career