The Importance Of Working “On” Your Career, Not Just “In” It

The Importance Of Working “On” Your Career, Not Just “In” It

What’s your career strategy? What are your professional goals this year? Are you focussed?

At Elevate Talent many of our coaching clients face a high-level challenge: they are heavily invested in the work that they do in their career, but as a result, they devote very little time to working on their career, which can lead to long-term dissatisfaction. 

There is a vital, but often overlooked, distinction between working “in” your career or “on” it. Your answers to the following two questions will uncover what’s true for you:

  1. Are you doing your best to climb (or move across) the corporate ladder?
  2. Have you stopped to consider whether that ladder is leaning against the right wall, and are you certain that you’re moving in a way best suited to your personal career goals?

The key to making a shift that supports your career aspirations and life vision is stepping back to define a well-thought-out strategy.

A survey by Elevate Talent revealed that 70% of our members find the execution of their strategy (the tactics to make it happen) easier than defining the strategy; but without a crystal-clear strategy, you’re leaving your future to chance.

Simple ways to help you define your strategy

The following guiding questions are a powerful tool to help you create a fulfilling career strategy: 

  • What’s the outcome that I want to achieve?
  • What path do I want to follow?
  • What’s my ideal vision?
  • What will it give me?
  • Why are my above answers important to me?

Tactics, the action steps you take to execute your strategy, become far more straightforward and effective when you know the direction you want to move in. 

What happens if you focus on working “in” your career?

One of the biggest negatives of focusing all your energy into your career is that a lot of the work you do will be directed towards helping other people advance professionally. It might be highlighting the great work they are doing, or helping them to be valued and recognised, but it’s unlikely to achieve the same recognition for you.

In short, you are working to support their strategy, not your own. 

It’s important to take stock to ensure that you also drive your own agenda forward.

Blocked progress

If you bypass getting clear on your strategy and keep busy “in” your career, you risk blocking your own progress. When you carefully consider your long-term ambition (and set milestones), you will recognise if perhaps you need to consider a sideways career step (see this blog: The EPIC Formula – An Easy-To-Follow Method To Progress In Your Career) to expand your experience, so that when you become senior, more opportunities are open to you. 

If you charge ahead without clear vision, you may inadvertently restrict yourself and be unable to move forward in the future.

Do you feel blocked now?

If you are concerned that you have already blocked yourself into a corner, that awareness is key to making a change.

Pause now if you suspect you might be on the wrong path. Your answers to these questions will help free-up thinking space and create a strategy that serves your needs:

  • What can I do differently?
  • What do I need to do more of?
  • What do I need to do less of?
  • Where can I spend my time more efficiently to help me achieve my intended outcomes?
  • Can I buddy up with someone (strategic alliance) to help gain clarity?

For the first quarter of this year, Elevate Talent members will be focusing on how to be strategic in building alliances, and improving performance, impact and leadership; without these in position we increase the probability of reaching a career destination and finding out we’re in the wrong place!

Express yourself

The days of remaining on one career path for life have gone; it’s now far more socially acceptable to pivot, make a new choice and follow a different path. The last two years (with Covid-19) have pushed most of us out of our comfort zones and forced us to adapt and reassess our priorities. Our thinking has shifted, and that has to be reflected in our career choices.

Madonna is a genius when it comes to reinvention. Her music career has spanned more than 40 years because she changes her style, her look, her sound, and embraces change. There’s no doubt she has a successful strategy and the tactics to support it!

She has broken many taboos and built resilience to any backlash. If we learn from Madonna, we can see that we don’t need to “wait” for external approval to make a shift.

Feel free to go against the grain

For example, I met an amazing woman Emma Sinclair, MBE, last year.  She is the youngest person to have floated a company on the London Stock Exchange. She was 29 years old. As a serial entrepreneur, she now co-leads global software company EnterpriseAlumni.

In an interview with Gordon & Eden (recruitment specialists), Emma stated that she’d tell her younger self to: “Worry less about what people think. Feel more confident to participate in conversations. Put my hand up at an event. Speak up in a meeting.” She concluded that: “Life would have been easier if I had been less self-conscious.”

These are wise words that stand true for you today. Whatever stage you are at in your career, you need to know your strategy, one that works for what you want and then drive it forward with your words and actions.

What step will you take today to help define and progress your career strategy? We’re passionate about supporting women in mid-level positions to achieve their full potential. If you’d love to know more about becoming a member of Elevate Talent and tapping into the support and expertise of our members and leadership team, contact us.

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