The best transformation advice I had ever been given by a former manager was when I had been working through what I thought was a career plan when one day he asked me, “Where is it?” The answer, of course, was “mostly in my head”.
I’ll never forget what he said to me: “How serious are you about this?”
That was my personal ‘eureka’ moment.
Today there seems to be so many ways and examples of how to be successful and move ahead in your career – working hard is of course a pre-requisite. But in a world where mindfulness and work life balance is top of mind for many people, along with career progression and the focus on learning and development, sometimes navigating all these factors can be challenging.
There are so many things to consider when deciding how to bring your best self to work; it can be overwhelming to think about. What are your drivers? What are the ways you can leverage your skills and learning to advance your career? All this mixed in with the focus on what the impact or purpose you want to make is, in your role within your organisation.
Consider this – How much time do you devote to your work, team, colleagues, friends, family and tasks you need to do? Now compare this to much time you allocate in the week for self-investment?
It’s important to take the time to schedule self-investment as many people and many managers – often find conversations like this difficult and challenging.
Most of us believe we can get away without process and procedure, and frankly we are happier working that way. In truth, it works — to a point. Making a commitment to planning, structure and strategy when it comes to your career development is critical.
As anyone who has done a personality profile such as Myers Briggs understands, structure comes naturally for some people but not for everyone. The good news is that even if you are more inclined towards bigger, open-ended thinking, creating and executing a more structured plan for your career can be learned behaviour.
To get the results you want, you need to develop a structured career plan of where you want to be beyond the just the next promotion, it should focus on the position you consider to be closer to your transformative destination. Then assess your skills gap to bridge and accompany it with a communications plan to your key stakeholders.
Remember that transformation is more than just a change of role for an employee or an adjustment to the organisational structure of a company. It is a cultural change that involves a change in staff mindset and the approach that a company takes to growth.
That approach runs hard up against reality when you work for large, highly matrixed organisations.
Working at LinkedIn, I have been fortunate to have mentors who have encouraged me to think about my personal growth and career transformation – the company truly believes that their employee’s growth contributes to the company’s growth. Remember that this is not an individual’s journey – you can’t do it alone. Never underestimate the value of advocates and mentors who can offer you regular constructive feedback on your journey.
My ‘eureka’ moment spurred me into action, and I realised what I wanted most was to move back home to Sydney to be closer with my family and take on a new career challenge within the company. I spoke to my manager, and we comprised an actionable set of milestones to make it happen, my target was two years but luckily I achieved it in 18 months.
Transforming your career
Sales professionals traditionally hold the belief that hard work will get you to the ultimate desired results and rewards. Revenue is a very transparent measure, and when you succeed you are going to be recognised for that.
In the past, the best sales performer would be promoted into management — but that is not always the best outcome for either the sales executive or the business. Management requires a very different skill set beyond simply being results-driven.
People also need to understand what their strengths are and how to further develop them to transform into corresponding roles. While someone might excel in a sales role, they may not be the best sales manager. You need to figure out what you have within you as a strength and let that be the starting point for career transformation and exploration.
Earning that promotion is not the end goal. It is just the start of the next level of transformation: the transformation of the role.
To extend your career into new areas such as management, you need to be able to scale not only yourself and your individual achievements, but also the business. How can you demonstrate your understanding of business objectives, your alignment to your organisation’s goals, as well as develop the people around you?
There are three simple elements to this transformation:
(a) what are my current skills and capabilities;
(b) what do I aspire to be doing in the future; and
(c) what are the steps I need to take to get from one to the other.
Remember that this personal transformation of self and role is also happening in the context of business transformation, so getting a strong alignment is critical.
There are a number of tools online to help you do this, for instance the Peak Performance Centre offers what it calls the Skill Will Matrix.
“Skill” relates to your capacity to do the job based on capabilities and experience and “Will” relates to your approach to the job and your desire to complete the particular task.
The Skill Will Matrix helps you identify ways to manage people towards success by allowing you to better understand different types of individuals and then apply it to management and coaching techniques to help them improve their performance, according to the Centre.
Transforming your company
In today’s business landscape, team and talent is the core strategic focus for the top performing companies; attracting and retaining staff has become the key pillar by which companies gain a competitive edge. There is also a much greater understanding of the importance of EQ in addition to IQ, and soft skills are just as important as the technical capabilities new staff bring to the job.
To attract top talent, organisations need to be a lot more creative in their approach. They need to look beyond pay and perks, towards values, to ensure they attract the best people to their brand.
There is a much greater focus today on sustainability and diversity, on the impact of issues like mental health in the workforce, and even on the very idea of what work means.
As Natalie MacDonald, News Editor at LinkedIn wrote recently, we’re starting to question the value of work itself or at least the extent to which it plays in our lives.
In a column headlined “20 Big Ideas that will change your world in 2020” she writes: “One central idea connects the increased attention to flexible work, the four-day work week, mental health on the job and other rising workplace trends: Maybe work was a false idol all along.
Even the most work-obsessed nations are now questioning an always-on, achievement-centric culture. Finland’s new Prime Minister has outlined a shorter working week vision for the future. Members of America’s affluent class have begun to make plans to retire early, while Chinese workers are starting to rebel against the 9-9-6 model (working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week).”
If you truly want to make a difference and impact the company you work in, you need to ensure you are aligned to their mission and value proposition. I feel proud to work for an organisation whose mission connects the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
Remember to play the long game
Avoid the temptation to react to short term distractions and instead think beyond the year, and about the journey you want to take.
Remember also that transformation, whilst it can be organic, needs to be designed, planned and executed to be effective and successful.
Finally, take the time to understand what skillsets you have, and what you need to further develop to work towards a career transformation. The easiest place to start is by capitalising on your current strengths, and build on those foundations to take you to your desired destination.
Give yourself the best shot at success by thinking strategically about how to develop as a person, as an employee, and as a key contributor to your organisation.
About this author
Letrecia Tippett is the Director Sales Solutions Australia and New Zealand at LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.