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At a recent conference I sat in the audience and listened to someone tell me that “being good at your job is no longer a career strategy; everyone else is busy being good at their jobs too.”
So, where does that leave us? As far as I was concerned, I was good at my job, rocking my career and that was pretty much good enough for me.
But from the time we are small, we’re taught that getting educated, getting a decent job and working our way up is the right path. And now that’s not enough? Don’t you feel a bit exhausted just reading this?
Why have the goalposts shifted? When did it become not enough to ‘just’ be good at our jobs? And can we pursue a ‘good enough’ career strategy whilst also staying true to who we are?
Not exactly –the work world has changed, and it’s not going to stop changing. Companies now demand more, better, multi-skilled team players with an eye on the C suite. But what if that’s just not who you are?
There are ways to play the career game that letyou get to the top without changing who you are.
You know your work already speaks to your value, but to further raise that profile, here are three career strategies to make sure you are going well above the minimum on a regular basis:
At my company, something we talk about a lot is finding the work-life balance that suits you best, and it’s so, so important. I’m not advocating spending more time at work than you feel you can – what I mean is, don’t get comfortable in your role and coast through each week. Get out of your comfort zone by looking for leadership opportunities, whether that’s being the lead person on a project or mentoring graduates and interns. If you spot inefficiencies, your solid experience should ensure that you’re listened to when you suggest a solution. Just don’t sit down on a Monday morning, stick your earphones in and only look up when it’s time to go home Friday. Staying in your comfort zone will get you nowhere near advancing your career.
Adjust and Join UP
You are who you are, and that’s great. But if you can’t learn to adapt your approach to those around you, you might wonder why you just aren’t getting through to people, or feel at a disadvantage to those who have made better personal connections. So if you’re dealing with colleagues who have a thirst for detail, give it to them before they have to ask. Or if you’re sitting next to someone who is all about the family, ask after their kids. It’s easy to adapt your approach, if you take the time to notice who your colleagues really are.
Thanks Sheryl Sandberg! But I’m not just talking about women having a place in every boardroom (although clearly that would be nice). I’m talking to everyone. If you have a big meeting coming up, turn up early, sit up front instead of skulking at the back and make sure you’ve done your homework. Ask pertinent questions, catch the eye of key people, and work the room! Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a big bold extrovert to do this; channelling a quiet confidence can really help others see you as one to watch.
And if you are reading this, heaving a sigh at the thought of being asked to give more of yourself than you already do, maybe that’s the catalyst you need to think about a complete career overhaul. There are ways to climb the ladder that will suit you more than others; you might be great at running cross-team projects; you might head the company charity fundraising team; you might just be a natural networker, able to connect effortlessly with people from the boardroom to the mailroom. But if you’re climbing the wrong ladder, you’re wasting your enthusiasm, and your life, on the wrong path. So make your choices, and get moving. Good luck.