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Leading your professional you

The reality for most people is you will have many jobs and careers.

My journey so far would appear to be all over the map. I started as apprentice potter, a newspaper delivery boy, a general dogsbody in a kitchen, a cook, a chef, a computer scientist, a student politician, a trainer, a charity campaigner, a political campaigner, a english teacher, a dive instructor, a politician, a cabinet member, a marketing VP, consultant, startup founder, a college professor, a tech support, and a developer.

Every job and career can teach you many things (if you are paying attention), changing either, will give you a faster track to understand the similarities and difference in different sectors and jobs. In the end by having different of jobs/careers you will see connections, innovations that others who are stuck in one role and career will rarely see..  For me I connect so many disparate things, see opportunities where others are blind and I am constantly  readdressing what others see as the “truth”, common sense or the obvious. All because they are coming from one angle or a limited few angles and I am not.

Hint when you have lost your keys stand on a chair it will allow you to see the room from a different angle that you are unfamiliar with and you will pay more attention because it is new.. I am suggesting the same thing about your career..

A job and career should fit to your needs and desires at the time.. sometimes that will be simply to pay the rent, other times it should be explore another part of you.  Choose a pathway of jobs and careers that will make you happy and that will teach you the things you need and desire, to help you with the next step.. consider it a pathway or a tree with many opportunities..

Plan your professional life.

Tree of growth

So if you change your job career regularly what about loyalty to orgainsations and businesses, fair question:

  • Public companies are often more loyal to their shareholders and the organisations survival then you, yes even if you are the founder or CEO.
  • Private companies loyalties are determined by the power structure or family relationships or funders.
  • Governments are loyal to the last electorate vote, who often vote on the last bad thing the government did, whole programs and departments are wiped out as governments change.
  • Non-Profits immediate future are determined on the economic cycle

Ok a touch cynical I appreciate, but the reality is organisations are always changing even if a bit slowly. And so should you!

Here is a couple things that helped me and things I continue grow:

1. Importance of self awareness

The more context and angles you see yourself in, the more constructive feedback you get, the more you will truly understand yourself. As you experience different organisation cultures you will build an understanding in what you like and dislike.  You will need to book sometime for yourself to reflect, process and understand.

Most people are not truly aware of what their dream job is, they even think they do, just do not know until you have tried it.  Maybe you have be driven to this point because it was what was expected of you by your family or friends or teachers. Chill, I personally do not think you have to have a job or career for life, you are not a penguin you are a human you have choices.  Sometimes having choice is part of the problem..

In my experience, there is something more powerful then the right job, its working with an awesome team.  When this happens the role seems less important as long as you are contributing to the team. Being good in your role and being proactive in learning becomes natural.

Trying out a few personalities tests will also give you some slivers off your personality, remember most of this are very superficial and a snapshot in a time and a place.

2. Fear should become your friend

We all need become unafraid of changing both careers and jobs or at least manage the fear so it becomes your adrenaline, your extra boost, a source of strength, not weakness.

You can reduce fear by planning for the change, e.g. taking evening courses, internship, work seven days a week (5 in one job, 2 in the new role), get a mentor in the role you want to be in. Take a vacation and go to a conference that concentrates on that role, check out if these people are the ones you want to be surrounded by.

It is not easy to learn new skills for which you are being paid for.  You will often feel “stupid” and fustrated at yourself. Understand the basics of anger management, because your mistakes will make you angry at yourself more! Ask your partner(s), friend(s) or family(s) to keep an eye on you and help you adjust, reflect and process.

3. Choose your boss carefully

It does not matter how good you are, if your boss does not like you, the rest is irrelevent.  You must choose a boss who can be both your coach and mentor.  You are recruiting for you. You are looking for the best match for you.  Let them worry about if you are good match for them. Your interviews should be 50/50 in terms of questions, yes you asking 50%.

Questions to ask:

  1. How many of your staff have you coached and mentored?
  2. Describe to me your coaching style?
  3. Can you give me examples of your staff that have outgrown their roles?
  4. Have any of your staff ended up in senior positions to you?
  5. If I fail project how will you react to your colleagues and me?

4. Understand how to build a new network

You will not be here for ever, find out who the good people are. You have a strong advantage over those who stay in one job or company, your network will grow faster, this gives you more opportunities for new roles. Again match people on your personality, not power/influence. Look for the people you want to work with again. Also look for the people who are really good at, what you are not.

5. Understand how to learn and grow your skills fast

This is very important. Get to really know how you learn best and expand your learn capabilities. You should not, use one learning model to understand this, you use many models (they all see different things). It may require an investment on your part, in the end understanding this will determine in part your success in each job and career. Accept that your will occasionally make a mistake or even fail.

Here are some learning style models:

  • Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist)
  • David Kolb’s model (Accommodating, Converging, Diverging and Assimilating)
  • Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model (visual learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners)
  • Grasha-Reichmann Learning Style Scale  (avoidant, competitive, collaborative, dependent, independent and participative)

6. Grow both your leadership and followship abilities

Whilst we have media mythology that states that leaders are more important.

Leaders only exist if they have followers.

If an organisation expects you to serve as a slave for five years before you can have some leadership responsibilities move on, go work for a smaller growing organization, who offers opportunities.That said it is also important to occasionally work for larger organisations to understand how to work in one e.g. how bureaucratic systems work, how the culture of having several tiers of management, effects innovation and the impact policy decisions from on-high effect the person on the ground floor or customer facing.

In my career I have chosen to work in leadership and then not. It has accelerated my abilities in both. But it is not easy. It has taught me humility, patience, the ability to coach upwards and let others fail if need be. Sometimes you need to reinforce your roots, other times explore a branch. Growing upwards is not always the best choice.

7. Do not burn bridges

A lesson I learned from politics. You will fail, what people really respect is how you do it with humility and style and then come back and show people why you are good. You also never know who will be your allies in the future, occasionally you will have to forgive others and move on. Sometimes you will work out in hindsight it was you creating the problems.

8. You own your future

Plan your professional life. Work out where you think may want to be. Look at the skills, knowledge and experience you will need to acquire, to achieve each step. This plan should and will change as opportunities pop up. Reflect on each job, what did you like about it and what did you not. Reflect on your bosses, what was good and not, how will this improve both your leadership and followship abilities. How specifically are you going to grow, what books, courses, conferences will you attend? Which personality tests will you pay for.

Make a plan, but stay on your toes and change as you learn.

Last Thoughts

Do not let your manager or HR “talent manage” you. They care about their needs or the organizations needs not yours.  Of course listen to their advice, but check in with their motivation. Yes ask them!

Most talent management and skills databases systems are simply shit. They are limited by traditional concepts of the education you have received and the job titles you have had.  They are predicting your future by looking at your past. Idiots. Just imagine if we limited the human races future on the past, so why do we do it for every individual. Your past could be a reflection of your parents, the financial place you have come from, if you were teased at school, things that as an adult you can choose to move on from.

Even currently online resumes miss the point, how limited in expression and in understanding the professional needs of a human, even from an organisation perspective they are limited in use.

This simply waste of human potential, angers me so much, it is in part why I founded Professional You and why in time I will blow this shit into the past.

This has become my flame, the thing I will build all the skills I need towards, the types of people I will hunt for to help me with this mission. And if I fail it would be for a cause I believe in.

My path is clear, I understand the full grown tree that I need to grow, in myself. This clarity took many roles, many careers, many failures and success.

I hope this post helps you find some of your tree, or helps you on your journey. Please share your learnings, so I can learn from you 🙂

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