Career sustainability – choose the best “first time” experiences and develop your “soft skills”

These days, technology is evolving faster than ever and the impact of this on organisations can be huge, with layers disappearing, titles changing and the pendulum swinging from centralisation to decentralisation.  In this fast-changing world, what can you do to sustain a career and remain a sought-after candidate?  Here are just a couple of suggestions:-

The Power of Firsts

First-time experiences are crucial, so keep your views and options open.  Don’t turn down opportunities because the change doesn’t involve a promotion, title change or because it’s outside your area of study.  Set out a plan on what you want to learn and don’t wait for others to make career choices on your behalf.  These days, many organisations operate flat structures, so building a broad foundation will become critically important as you progress. The typical career image of a ladder with logical, rung by rung progression won’t exist!  Career sustainability will be all about experiences and knowledge – not just job titles.

So does this mean you need to change companies on a regular basis?  Whilst looking externally will probably be your first thought, it might also pay to consider options internally.  If you see potential to develop experience within your existing company, talk to your employer.    Gaining broader knowledge across one organisation can help you develop a better understanding of how that business operates and how your role impacts on its success.  Equally, keeping a good employee within the organisation will always be preferable for an employer if they have the option to do so.  With your career plan in mind, see if there is a role that would give benefits to both parties.

Don’t forget your soft skills.

Whilst it’s important to use what you’ve learnt during your studies, academic prowess alone won’t sustain your career.  Developing “soft skills” to add to your technical ones are essential if you want to progress.  More and more employers are placing emphasis on behavioural competencies and potential rather than on technical skills, so each time you take on a new assignment or role, ask yourself these questions to assess whether it will help you develop and grow:-

  • Do I have good interpersonal skills? (More info in our next Blog)
  • Do I work well in a team? Would people say I’m a potential team leader?  What are good leadership traits and do I possess them?
  • Can I influence others using negotiation and persuasion even if I’m not managing them?
  • Is this Manager going to be different to any I’ve worked with before? Will I gain a different perspective on management style and values- even if I don’t particularly like the person?
  • Do I know how to handle internal politics? Can I work effectively in an environment where this is prevalent?
  • Do I understand how senior management operates? Will I gain a wider perspective on the business?

Any opportunity that gives you potential to grow your “soft skills” is most definitely not wasted!

And finally…..Be Proactive

It’s predicted  that today’s Graduates will have at least four distinct career changes throughout their working life, so taking a hap-hazard approach to career development is becoming very risky.    If there’s ever been a time to be more proactive with both your professional and personal development, it’s now.  Just make sure you look at all opportunities for the experience and behavioural growth potential they offer and never stop learning.   A successful, sustainable career is definitely achievable with a little bit of planning !