Your career development

These posts are part of the series on your career development and the reasons and benefits for developing your your skills in business change and transformation.

Change manage your career

My coaching sessions during this pandemic have raised a common issue: careers hitting a crossroads with the decision between increasingly specialist roles or taking a management position. We hit a plateau with our current career, feeling as if we are not being stretched or challenged by our current role. This can happen at any age, and any stage of career and is driven by our need to progress, learn new things and feel a sense of accomplishment. If this resonates with you, read on for some help with defining the scope and benefits of your next move.

From the Agile Change Agent course, I have been using the simple but effective technique of the Benefits Dependency Network to help people identify the best direction for them at this point in their careers.

To use the technique, select the change that you are considering, and then identify the consequences if you pursue this path. By constantly asking the question “so what?” you can clearly see the consequences of your decision and can evaluate if these consequences are what you want to achieve. Here are two examples from the career choices outlined above.

Benefits Dependency Network diagram from the Agile Change Agent course that helps identify the benefits of a change.

Benefits Dependency Network from the Agile Change Agent course and Agile Change Management textbook.

As you can see, each positive leads to another idea, and some advantages feed into more than one other benefit or opportunity. This technique is a structured mind-mapping technique, and as you fill in each subsequent box, you are challenging yourself to identify the consequence of each action. It doesn’t matter how many times I use this technique; I always learn something that I didn’t know I knew until I put it down on paper.

Be career Agile

By designing an ambitious goal we create the mechanism for identifying our ideal life. No-one gets everything they want but by setting the bar high we will leap further because:
1. The stretching nature of the goal itself will push us to achieve more.
2. Identifying different elements of our goal helps us see our priorities so we allocate our time better, increasing our chances of getting stuff done.
3. Knowing what we want helps us see opportunities that will help us get there.

Increase my motivation

During the pandemic I feel I have been reacting to events. 2020/21 is not a time where I have been in the driving seat of my career. Whilst I have worked hard to keep everything on track, it doesn’t feel very motivating to be the one having change done to me.

By creating a compelling, exciting description of my future I can get my motivation back. My goal includes things that are important to me, that I want to achieve, because they align to my values and how I want to interact with the world. I get pleasure from thinking how it will feel this time next year to have succeeded with these ambitions. This in turn excites me to get going.

Creating my goals

Seeing my ambitious set out on a mind map helps me identify connections I need to make and studying I need to do to put me in shape for getting what I want.

I use a mind map so that I can see the different elements that contribute to the bigger picture. The shape of the mind map demonstrates that each of the branches connects and supports the others.

It turns my hopes for the next year into concrete plans, inspired by this quote (source unknown):
An idea written down with a date becomes a goal
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan

Next steps

So let’s get started:

  • Create your own mind map
  • Identify a handful of actions and mark their achievement in your schedule for next year.

And to keep up your momentum, pick 3 things you can do now to start your journey.

Ambitious in an agile world

Introduction

I was working with a group of junior but ambitious people recently, and we debated how to overcome the constraints of hierarchical structures. Being told that you cannot progress because you aren’t senior enough doesn’t feel right in our more agile working environments.

So if you have great ideas and the energy and enthusiasm to implement them but keep hearing NO, what can you do?

The idea that we felt had the most long term impact for career development was building status through expertise not seniority.

Expertise = Credibility

Expertise conveys a form of credibility, just as seniority confers credibility. Those with authority take note of those that they believe have the “right” answer. With so much change taking place there is a lot of risk, uncertainty and fear of blame. To minimise risk, it is always easier to listen to the most well-informed person in the room.

The problem the ambitious but junior person has, is that there is an assumption that the more senior a person, the capable they are, so they are the voice to listen to. Robert Cialdini in his excellent work Persuasion, explains that humans don’t make rational decisions, they make decisions based on short cuts. Seniority = trust worthy, useful, “right” answers.

To overcome this short cut, replace it with another one – the most credible, qualified, well-informed person in the room is the one with the “right” answer. So becoming the one that others turn to is within your grasp. If you can put the effort in, you can become a thought leader in your field.

Build your expertise

Develop you expertise so you can build your credibility:

  • Develop your ideas with other professionals outside of your immediate circle at work
  • Post your ideas on LinkedIn groups and engage in debate
  • Comment on articles on websites relevant to your industry
  • Attend meetup groups and events put on by professional bodies and institutes
  • Attend webinars and pose questions
  • Take time to write up your ideas as well argued papers. This forces you to order your thoughts, learn lessons by assembling your arguments and add to your original concept – just like I am doing here!
  • Attend conferences in person and on-line to broaden your knowledge and have something fresh and interesting to talk about to your colleagues and your senior leaders.
  • Get as many qualifications as you possibly can because this is a form of external recognition of your knowledge.

Let others know what you know

But there will be no increase in your credibility if you don’t make your achievements clear. However, this has to be done sensitively as no-one likes a show-off.

  • Make sure your on-line profiles at work and on the internet are regularly updated with your achievements.
  • Take any and every opportunity to speak at your organisation and at industry forums.
  • Encourage your team to submit their work for awards – industry magazines and professional bodies have many categories for projects.
  • Offer to host lunch and learn sessions at your organisation to share ideas and develop your internal network of like minded enthusiasts.
  • Arrange for external speakers to come in and talk to you and your colleagues, making sure you invite senior leaders who can benefit from the event you have organised.

Conclusion

I know this sounds like a lot of hard work but it’s a lot more fun to be proactive and take control of your career than to wait on the sidelines until someone notices you!