Patrick Ow shares insight on career growth strategies and how they can maximize your potential.
Job shopping is getting more strategic, intense, and difficult. There’s now a vast pool of unemployed job seekers, including professionals, who are competing on price, not on value.
When job seekers compete on price (like a commodity), older or more experienced workers will naturally feel “discriminated.” Rightly so. Employers will inevitably hire the cheapest or fastest person. A younger person can do the same job to keep the payroll cost low.
Employees naturally want to be paid more for their accumulated years of work experience. But if those working years cannot be effectively translated into tangible value and accomplishments for future employers, then they will not be employable at their asking price in the future. They have, unfortunately, reached their peak of the performance bell curve. Eventually, they will “die” off. That is, unless, they can reinvent, upskill, or upgrade themselves. They have to keep growing and creating more value!
The ability to create value for employers is vital for the future of work.
A Strategy or Plan for Everything
People do not plan to fail. They fail to plan for the future and implement their strategies and plans.
Here’s the thing:
If you were planning to build your own house, would you forgo drafting up a detailed house plan? Would you randomly build your house with different building materials and any color scheme that comes to mind? Are you hoping or praying that it will become a beautiful home?
Likewise, as a professional or expert on your field or industry, would you forgo developing a career growth strategy as a roadmap where you can systematically but intentionally build a meaningful career, job-by-job? Or is your professional career a random collection of jobs and experiences that does not tell a good career story or narrative?
Hence, there is a need to develop and implement your career growth strategy.
Generally, there are two key career growth strategies people will think about:
- Staying at one organization for many years and getting promoted from within regularly.
- Constantly moving from organization to another organization, gaining a more senior position or title with each organization you join.
Mistakes Professionals Make
The #1 mistake professionals make is spending too much time performing their current work.
They do not make time to:
- Think about their future.
- Plan out their career (or even their calling).
- Implement their career strategy.
Carve out 5% to 10% of your time daily to intentionally implement your career growth strategy.
The key is to network your way into your next job. As many executive or professional jobs are not publically advertised, professionals must also be networking themselves into their next job.
Networking takes time. It takes effort. This is the only way to get ahead of other job seekers. You have to work on it daily!
Networking is very important in strategy because it’s all about relationships. The vast majority of career opportunities come through networks.
The landmark research on how people find good jobs was conducted in the early 1970s by Mark Granovetter. It remains very relevant today despite the big changes in roles and recruitment.
Studying professional, technical, and managerial job-seekers, Granovetter found that most jobs (and especially good ones) were attained not through direct application or other formal means.
That is, good jobs were NOT found by submitting a resume in response to a job listing.
Instead, good jobs were only found through personal contacts. These are jobs that someone inside the organization told the applicant about or recommended him or her to.
Is it a job, career, or calling for you?
There are three work orientations:
- Job orientation – Individuals tend to view their work as a means to an end. They work to receive their salary or pay. The money they receive supports their hobbies, family, or life outside work. They are not as likely to have a strong connection to the workplace or their job. This is where their job only serves as a basic necessity in life.
- Career orientation – An individual with a career orientation is more likely to focus on elements related to success or prestige. This individual will be interested in their ability to move upward in his or her career. They want to receive pay raises and new promotions and titles. It may even include social standing that comes from their career.
- Calling orientation – Individuals with a calling orientation often describe their work as integral to their life, purpose, and identity. They view their career as a form of self-expression and personal fulfillment.
So, which orientation are you seeking to adopt in your career growth strategy?
Six Dimensions of Career Growth
There are six career growth dimensions that you need to cover in your career growth strategy to maximize your potential – career goal progress, professional development, promotion speed, remuneration growth, promotion equity, and job rotation.
Intentionally cover one or more of these career growth dimensions over a one-year, two-year, or even a five-year timeframe.
Ask the following questions when developing your career growth strategy:
Career goal progress
My current job:
- Moves me closer to my career goals? (A career goal is a well-defined statement explaining the profession that an individual intends to pursue throughout his or her career. Look for careers that match your interests, skill set, and salary requirements. Explore the job market and look at the lists of growing or in-demand careers.)
- Supports my short-term and long-term career goals including my professional growth?
- Sets the right foundation and direction for the realization of my career goals and professional growth?
- Provides me with good opportunities to achieve my career goals?
My current job encourages me to:
- Work in different departments in the organization to gain new job-related skills and knowledge?
- Accumulate richer work experiences and an in-depth understanding of the organization?
- Improve my professional capabilities and competencies – internally and externally?
- Network with different colleagues within the organization? (This will be good for your future networking.)
My current job increases:
- The probability of being promoted within the organization?
- My promotion speed especially when compared with my colleagues?
My current job:
- Has grown my salary quickly when compared with my colleagues?
- Will allow my salary to grow quickly in the future?
My current employer:
- Fairly rewards me for the responsibilities and accountabilities I have?
- Has fair and objective policies and processes for internal promotion?
- Makes fair and objective promotion decisions?
My current employer:
- Encourages me to rotate my jobs or work within the organization?
- Has broadened my knowledge and skills in other fields and areas through many job rotation opportunities?
Professionals Need to be Growing Continuously
Professionals and experts need to grow continuously to command a higher salary. They will go through three phases of growth:
- Phase 1 – The exploration and mastering phase occurs in the first ten years of service. This is where budding experts and professionals start their professional career as a generalist. I always tell my clients to absorb any experience like a sponge and intentionally create opportunities for doing so. Unless you try things out, you would not know what you like and don’t like.
- Phase 2 – The specialization phase occurs during the period of 10 to 15 years of service, depending on the industry. This is when professionals focus on particular areas of specialization or expertise. When this occurs, they are promoted and rewarded. The speed at which these occur will depend on the organization they are working in. It also includes the opportunities they intentionally create for themselves, in and outside the organization.
- Phase 3 – The expert phase occurs when professionals become competent experts in their field or industry. The end product would be a versatile expert who is also knowledgeable about and familiar with the subject matter. As experts in their field, they intentionally create opportunities to teach or train others – a good expert is also a great teacher!
Professionals must constantly preserve and increase their value to others by intentionally accumulating their skills, experience and competence over time. Otherwise, they will become worthless and unemployable.
Using a wine analogy, we have to preserve wine that turns into a priceless vintage, rather than into vinegar. There are techniques for preserving wine.
Read on to learn about the benefits of developing and implementing a career growth strategy now.
This is Part One of a three-part series.
Part Two- Benefits of a Career Growth Strategy