This blog post is my reaction to “Why we still can’t get career development right” by Julie Winkle Giulioni. It’s time that someone tackled this subject because what some may think are the ‘good old days’ – are long gone. Yes, it’s important for organizations to invest in their employees, but employees also have to be proactive about managing their careers. This means, take control of your career, or it will take control of you, so that five years down the road, you’re not wondering how you got there. Jobs for life are a thing of the past.
Because of flattened organizational structures, getting a promotion is a scarce commodity these days. In the article, Julie Winkle Giulioni mentions several issues: Problematic probes, Lateral limitations, Stymied stretch assignments, Transparency traps and so on, which are serious workplace issues that must be addressed.
Please Read: Why we still can’t get career development right
Despite that, you have to take responsibility for your career, you cannot give all the power and to any employer. If the organization has career development opportunities, yes, it’s important to fully utilize them. But you also have to make sure that the career development opportunities that you engage in, allow you to become more valuable to yourself, and not just to the employer. You do not want to develop skills that you can only use in your current job. In this age, you need portable skills that you can take with you anywhere – to any employer, even if your next employer is you. This means that you may have to financially invest in your career development. You may have to dig into your pocket and pay for your own career development. So where do you start?
How to Take Control of Your Career
I love the four questions that Julie Winkle Guilioni puts forth in her Problematic probes:
- What kinds of work would you like to be doing?
- What do you wish to accomplish and contribute?
- What kinds of problems would you like to be solved?
- What in your current role do you love and would like to do more of?
At any stage in a career, an employee can ask and answer these four questions. But I would like to add another question, “What are critical problems in your industry, niche and workplace that needs solving?” To become valuable, you have to solve problems that matter. Solutions that would make top influencers stop and take notice of you. Why not create your own stretch assignment? If you propose to find a solution to a problem that matters to the company, that has the potential to lower costs, make money, or a combination of both, why wouldn’t they allow you to move forward with your project? To ensure that you also benefit from finding a solution to a problem that matters to the organization, make sure that it is a problem, that if solved, will enable you to acquire new skills that are also in demand outside the company. As mentioned earlier, you need to have portable skills to make yourself more marketable.
I spent considerable time thinking about Julie Winkle Giulioni’s article. Based on my over 18 years of research experience, here is what I would do:
- If I didn’t know what the big problems were in my industry, niche, and organization, I would conduct informational interviews. I would talk to industry analysts, professors, influencers and subject matter experts. I would talk to people working in the three levels: Industry, niche, and the company I work for.
- Review all the information to identify the biggest issues, challenges, and problems that need addressing.
- Choose the top three problems that’s of greatest concern, that if solved, would allow me to develop skills that would make me marketable – that I could take elsewhere.
- Clearly define the three problems, then present a compelling proposal to influencers and people with power in the organization. I would present a powerful case for why I should work on the project and how it will benefit the organization.
- Let them choose the most critical of the three problems to solve first.
- Now that I have permission to solve one of the problems, I would map out my approach. Who do I need to speak to? What resources do I need to successfully complete the stretch assignment? Which books do I need to read?
If the problem is one that matters, and is a pressing concern, chances are, no one has fully solved it yet in the industry. The possibility does exist, however, that someone in another industry, or in another country, has already solved the problem, so you have to start the project by conducting more research. This is Part One of the series on taking control of your career and becoming more valuable in the process. In the next installment, I will walk you through the information gathering stage. In the third installment, we will deal with choosing the right books to read. And in the fourth installment, we will analyze the information that we have so far, then we will pull it all together.
I have been reading up on virality, and a big way for ideas to spread, is by providing practical value. That is, solving problems that matter to people, saving them time or money. It’s about empathy, it’s about taking a thorn out of someone’s side. If you proactively take control of your career, you get the opportunity to direct your career path, developing the kinds of skills that best serves your career direction.
First Appeared on Birds on the Blog