Do you get at least one phone call a year from someone asking you to come work for them?
We all know and probably envy people who regularly get poached from their current role by another employer. In essence, these people are reaping the reward for their ongoing Career Mastery. Perhaps without realising it, they behave as if they are a business – in career terms, it’s called “Me Ltd”.
When I commissioned our company logo a few years ago, I hesitated a bit, worried that it was perhaps too corny. But I stuck with it (and love it) because it absolutely represents what “Me Ltd” is all about. If you can master all of its elements, you SOAR. Hence, the logo.
Most of us understand there is no automatic job security any more, even in the Government sector. Our struggle is knowing what to do about it.
So, how can we sleep securely at night safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens to our current employment, we will be ok?
Excelling in the Workplace
The first element of “Me Ltd” revolves around how well you perform at work. Employers are not stupid – they’re not going to try to poach you if you are not good at what you do!
Start with the Simple Stuff: IQ
Experts say that roughly 15% of the value we bring to our organisation relates to our Hard Skills. Let’s call it the IQ part of our work and quickly cover off on what’s needed here:
- Do your job properly
After all, we are usually engaged to perform a specific technical function. Make sure you keep moving up the skills continuum – whether it’s Excel, industry software or something common like the ability to write correctly. My nephew has a PhD and says that he’s quite average. He puts a lot of his success down to his language skills (though, of course, he’s being far too modest). Think about style. If you need to write reports, for example, attend a ‘Better Business English’ course to make sure that you are up to date with current norms.
- Meet marketplace expectations with your qualifications
It’s a dangerous strategy to rely on a track record of success, without also getting the formal piece of paper. These days, things are much easier. Rather than go back and complete a full degree/Masters in your area of choice, you might want to think about micro credentials. It’s much less painful, cheaper and means that you can pivot more quickly to meet the market.
- Broaden your skills
Organisations are trying to do more with less, so versatile employees are often more valued. If you really want a challenge, look to improve the opposite skill to your current set. When I did an Accounting degree after a career as a French teacher, most people were quite shocked. I’ve never regretted it and find the strong business skills I acquired extremely useful.
- Strengthen your technology skills
Make sure you don’t rule yourself out of a role by having weak IT skills. No one says they’re not going to hire you because of lack of Excel skills, for example. However, they may well say the opposite, as in, ‘Sorry, we were interested in hiring you but we really need someone to hit the ground running with our monthly financial reporting.’
EQ rules the modern workplace
What about the other 85% of our value?
Here, we’re talking about Emotional Intelligence, rather than IQ. Most of us, consciously or unconsciously, assess each other’s value at work based on these so-called soft skills.
When you see a fellow team member walk towards you in the corridor, you don’t think, ‘Gee it’s great working with her ‘cos her analytical skills are so useful!’ Instead, you think about whether she’s a pain in the neck, you measure how adaptable she is, you assess whether she makes your life easier or not.
Here are some things to think about:
- Develop your soft skills
Beef up your technical knowledge of key areas such as: Conflict Resolution, Delegation, Teamwork, Time Management, Customer Service and then, of course, put them into practice!
This training seems to have absolutely gone out of fashion. I meet almost no one who knows what an ‘I Statement’ is, for example. Very few people learn how to say ‘No’ to a customer without actually using the word itself. (Now, that’s a skill that’s worth its weight in gold).
It needs to be face to face sessions, not online. You have to force the words past your lips, not just read about the theory. Otherwise, it’s just a passing understanding that doesn’t result in behaviour change or a skills improvement.
- Treat your boss and co-workers like customers
This doesn’t mean you slavishly devote yourself to them and subsume your own needs or values. It means a mindset where you understand that the eventual customer is affected by how well you support your team members. A client from a few years ago was adamant that he couldn’t stand his boss and just refused to do this. If you cannot contemplate this, you need to change your workplace as soon as possible.
- Be a problem-solver not a problem-finder
‘Yes, but…’ characters drag down the people around them. I often worry I’m the most critical person in the world but my saving grace is that I easily focus on solutions, especially systems-based ones. Pick your battles when it comes to criticising and make sure that you switch the discussion to outcomes that deliver concrete improvements.
- Build relationships outside your unit
Broaden your connections throughout the organisation so that your reputation is widely known. Change where you sit in meetings, deliberately meet new people and join cross-functional project teams. If you’re shy, use a go-between who can introduce you and smooth the way.
- Be politically savvy, not political
This is one of the most difficult balancing acts and it’s often worth finding an astute outsider to help you find the perfect medium here. Ask your organisation to give you an Executive Coaching program. These experts can help you navigate the pitfalls of internal politics.
- Accept change or move on
In and of itself, change is neither right nor wrong. For example, most people would believe that the changes that happened under Hitler’s regime in Germany were truly horrific. There is a Bell Curve of how easily we accept change. Very few of us are Innovators or even Early Adopters. What damages your reputation is if you are viewed as a Laggard. If you don’t like what you see, move to an organisation which better suits you. Just beware that you don’t find the same thing happening everywhere you go because that would suggest that the problem lies with you.
Manage your Profile
All of the above, however, is not enough. What’s the point of being good, if no one knows you exist? You still have to go through the tedious process of winning your next job through the formal job market next time you want to make a move.
It’s not easy for someone to ‘buy’ you in the hidden job market if they don’t know about you. This is an essential skill that is frequently missed by top notch employees.
So, just as your organisation has a marketing plan, you need to develop your own career marketing plan.
Persuasive Career Marketing Kit
It’s hard to market yourself successfully without a strong marketing kit. In career terms, we’re talking about:
- Outstanding written marketing material
Understand how to write a compelling Cover Letter that sells you as the authentic candidate who surpasses the requirements of the role. Keep your ‘wow’ résumé up to date so that you are the sought-after applicant. And create a LinkedIn profile that meets the unwritten rules of this critical Job Search site.
- Persuasive interview skills
Hone your interview performance so that it swings the balance of power to you and wins you the job.
- Attractive public speaking ability
Learn how to persuade your listeners, whether it’s in the Board room or on the podium.
At the Executive level, the above marketing kit is so essential it’s worth paying professionals to ensure that you excel.
Connect with Key Influencers
The first step is to look for an internal mentor. Their role is to be the wise person who also challenges you to grow and stretch yourself.
In addition, implement a systematic and ongoing program to keep up with your current external contacts and to meet new people.
Gain expert status
These days, LinkedIn is the easiest way for you to gain a solid reputation. I call it being viewed as ‘good value’ – someone who adds to the body of knowledge in his/her profession and who sounds like a nice, sensible person. All from the privacy of your own office. Talk about effective self-marketing!
Actions speak louder than words
Both sides of the Career Mastery equation are vital, so get started sooner rather than later. Don’t fall into the trap of being too busy for this. Devoting yourself to your workplace to the exclusion of your own career will not save you once your organisation has decided that it no longer wants you.
“Me Ltd” implies a certain level of (good) ruthlessness where you ensure that you look after your career without relying on your employer to look after you.
Tap into standard advice on how to put your plan into action and stick to your strategy. Make sure your plans are SMART. Give yourself a reward for achievements – you know how to do this.
And, when you adopt “Me Ltd” as an integral part of your professional life, you’ll be able to sleep at night…at least when it comes to job security.
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