No one would deny that your career is one of the important things in your life. It provides a source of income and financial security and gives you something worthwhile to do with your time every day. It can provide a feeling of self-worth, development, and progression in life while you are making a contribution to something bigger than yourself, especially if you are working in a role where you really resonate with what your company is striving to achieve.
That being said, it is remarkable how many people tend to stumble into their careers or fail to genuinely consider their career options. Further, once they have made the decision to leave their current employer or to start looking around very few people seem to think about and then implement a job search strategy that meets their needs and preferences while creating the greatest number of genuine, convertible employment options.
I have interviewed well over five thousand people and it’s been incredible to spend one on one time with motivated and driven individuals and successful, experienced operators who have achieved some amazing outcomes in their work world. Interestingly enough though, even many of the successful people had a general feeling that they wanted something different, but were not really sure what it looked like.
If this sounds like what you are currently experiencing, then I recommend you undertake an approach whereby you thoroughly define your strengths and preferences, set goals for your new skill development, and scope the market to develop an understanding of the realistic job options that are out there. The saying really is true – how can you get what you want if you don’t know what that is?
1. Define your Strengths and Preferences
Think carefully about your current role, your career success and feedback you have been given, and write down at least 5 things that are your strengths. Think about technical skills and knowledge, interpersonal strengths in leading others or influencing others or working in a team or sector; and industry expertise and knowledge as well as things that you may have been developing on the side – your side hustle might have had you accumulating knowledge and expertise in a particular area you are passionate about. Anytime your key, stand apart skills and expertise are in an area that you are passionate about – voila! You have some of your unique strengths. These are special, so note them.
2. Set Goals for New Skill Development
Let’s start big picture. What is happening in the world right now? Do you know? It’s really important to be informed and start reading up on job trends and forecasts for the future. Begin reading in the sectors and domains that are most relevant to you. Is it cybersecurity, is it alternate energy, is it e-commerce – whatever it is, there will be a group of people who have started to explore and write about this sector. Find them. Then subscribe to their newsfeeds, podcasts, blogs and articles, and this may be as simple as following the leaders in your domain or sector on social media.
For example, think about how the rise of AI might impact your industry and the jobs you are interested in. Many purely functional roles may not exist in the future. If you are in a role that could be performed by AI at some stage (this may be soon or could be 1– 5 years away), what do you need to be doing right now, in terms of re-tooling and re-skilling?
Maybe you have found some types of roles that you would love to do in the future? Try this: Do a LinkedIn search for people doing the type of job that you want.
There are literally thousands (definitely hundreds) of people doing the kind of job you want. See what the best of them have done in their prior career to get where they are. What courses have they completed? What career trajectory have they followed in terms of previous job roles or industry background?
Use this information to work out if you have any gaps that need to be addressed before you’re ready for that role.
Be thoughtful about your next move, don’t just look at what your predecessors have done – what may have made someone successful 5 years ago may not be the same strategy that you can use to be successful today. It’s really important to think about skilling up/retooling so you can play the long game.
Have you heard about micro-credentialing? There has been a rise in “micro” courses at all the education institutes and universities that are open to new students of all ages with few entry requisites. Get really familiar with the brand new courses that are coming out, especially at smaller more nimble education institutes that have been developing innovative (tech/digital) and entrepreneurial courses delivered in micro stages. Further, there are a range of online courses that you could complete on platforms like Udemi and Coursera, and innovative new education providers like AcademyXI and Zambesi. Get busy finding out about these courses and the skills they offer to get exposed to the new skills you may need, and start learning, practicing and fine-tuning them.
It’s also really important to read more and spend dedicated time focusing on your career – where do you want to be next year, in 3 years or in the job that’s 3 jobs away from the one you are in now? What do you need to be doing now, to make that happen? Read more, reflect on your own journey and use your new knowledge and current skills to plan for the future
Develop a playbook for your work life and, every day work towards something – it might be networking, attending training or seminars, reading books by interesting entrepreneurs and leaders running scaleups, attending meetups, going to conferences and other events in your city or listening to podcasts. Taking a proactive step every day will move you towards your goal even sooner.
3. Scope the Market
Look deeply into the employment market in your city. What is happening in the big branded enterprises, what activity and growth is happening in the startup space?
The era of work we are in right now is changing –necessity is the mother of invention, so rather than be alarmed, stay open and look at possibilities that you may not have considered before. And then start to think about what skills you need, what knowledge do you need and then start to line up work experiences that help you get the desired skills and knowledge.
You may need to consider if corporate is right for you or maybe it’s time to get some startup sector experience. Read more about this here.
4. Execute your Career Strategy
So once you know your strengths, you’ve identified the market sector and domain that is of most interest to you and you have identified the various ways you can develop new skills and expertise, the next step is to start doing it, don’t wait.
Keep in mind as you make career decisions that your career moves open up future options, rather than closing them off. It’s often better to step into a lower-paying “fast-moving stream” rather than a tempting, well-paying cul-de-sac.
The stream will take you somewhere exciting and keep you fresh and lean. You will learn new things and be challenged. It could also help you realize your true potential. And now that would be really worthwhile!
This article was written by Luke Henningsen and he is Co-Founder of the growing startup community at Ucities which is being developed to help provide a dedicated space for founders and startup people to network and support each other. He also leads a business called Scale & Swing, which delivers executive search to startups looking for senior talent at a startup-friendly price-point. Feel free to reach out to Luke on LinkedIn or at Scale & Swing or join the growing community at Ucities.