Based on personal experiences, I share 3 bits of advice to help you as you progress through your career.
I was reminiscing recently about a job interview I had a few years ago, whereby the interviewer looked at my CV, looked at me, and asked “So, you’ve gone from Engineering to Engagement, how on earth did that happen?”. Whilst my response at the time would have been about my personal and professional journey from studying an Engineering degree to then being passionate about people and change, my more recent reflections have reminded me of some important messages I try to share with people when I’m facilitating or coaching (and that you never know what the future holds!).
Aged 18, it seemed I was destined to study any university course ending with “Engineering”. As I started my degree I took a big interest in the Telecommunications aspects, and ultimately that took me into my first proper job as a software designer. That job worked for me – it was logical and structured. Then one day I got the chance to stand in for the project manager during his holiday. Suddenly I became aware of these skills I had leading a team, influencing people and driving change. And I loved it! Fast forward 13 years and I’ve led and delivered multiple projects and programmes across many contexts. An opportunity came to take on an operational role and I thought this would be a great way to add to my experience, knowledge and skills. Whilst in this role I became frustrated and it didn’t feel right, and I realised it was because I wasn’t getting to do the things that I really loved doing. So I did something about it, and moved onwards to a new role that brought together my project management skills and my passion for working with and developing people – and guess what, I was back with a really positive and motivated mindset.
When I help people think about their career and personal development, we acknowledge that sometimes there will be parts of a job that require some training/development in order to do well, but if there is too much of that and not enough of the job that makes you engaged, motivated and wanting to go the extra mile then maybe it’s not the right job at that point in time. If you get to the point where your job feels that amazing that you forget it's actually a job – you’re there!
Across all aspects of life, you never know when and how people will cross your path again, and what that might bring. As I’ve gone through my career, not only have I led and worked with some great people, but I’ve worked for some inspirational leaders and have been supported by some great mentors and coaches. They continue to be part of my professional network and I ensure that, as often as is appropriate, I re-connect with them. Sometimes just to say hi. Sometimes to ask a quick question. And many of those people have introduced me to other people in their network who I’ve subsequently developed even stronger working relationships with.
Now being self-employed and in the early stages of setting up my own business, my network has been hugely important in helping me get my business setup, helping me get the first contracts and helping me look ahead to what I want to and can be working on in the future.
Either in 1:1 coaching or working with groups, I use a simple diagram to help people map out their network. It very easily captures and displays the importance of each person, team, group, institution, etc to them, and the depth of their relationship with them – allowing a clear strategy to be developed of where and with whom to spend time and energy at any given point.
This really brings the two previous points together. I can recall occasions where I’ve seen a job advertised and thought “I can do all those things” and even better “I know who that will be working for”. But…
…there’s something in our minds that then tries to convince us that we wouldn’t get the job, or the person will have forgotten us. Well, be confident. If you believe you can do all or most of what a job requires, and you can think of examples where you’ve already demonstrated the right knowledge, skills and behaviour then you are in a great position. Or perhaps you’re already in a great job and the opportunity comes up to stretch yourself and do something new or different – it wouldn’t have been pushed your way if there wasn’t some existing belief in you. And be brave. Whether it be to apply for a job, say yes to something new or different, or reach out and seek some support and guidance for a mentor or coach.
One of my mottos in life is “You’ll never know if you don’t ask” – so even if the answer isn’t what you were hoping for, you’ll learn something that will help you be more prepared for the next time.