While everyone begins one’s life wanting a great career, not too many understand the concept beyond a mere progression of titles, rewards, and corporate affiliation.
Careers must be owned by each individual. However, it is not a solo 100-meter sprint that can be done, forget won, alone.
Spotter: Everyone -who had the potential -needed someone to spot their talent. It could be a teacher, a coach, a manager or a relative. But someone who saw a diamond when it could have passed off as just a stone. This may be by design or by serendipity. But we all need a spotter in our careers to give us the early push.
Gardener: Once spotted, careers need to be tended. Like saplings, they need to be supported, watered, fertilized and even de-weeded. Sometimes, fast growth needs to be clipped. Certain angularities need to be corrected. Done right and in time, a gardener in our career sets the stage for its proliferation. They can be an interested and capable manager or a competent HR coach. Competitors and collaborators: A lot of imprinting that happens on careers depends on the kind of peers one builds a career with. As individuals, they may be competing for rivals or collaborative friends -but they impact your growth trajectory. You pace your career based on the world around you. The quality of talent and work ethic in your teams and organisations have a deep imprint on how your career thinking shapes. It’s no surprise that when you work with the best, you push yourself to be the best. If you are surrounded by mediocrity, your brilliance, too, would eventually slip into complacency.
Crucial conversations: Personally, this has been the most impactful element in my career. A manager, coach or even a peer can play this role. Not many, however, want or can do this effectively. Very often, we hallucinate about our careers.Or we develop huge blind spots, more so if we have been reasonably successful. The past is not always the predictor of future success. It is crucial to have these conversations once in a while. Careers are about impact and relevance, today and tomorrow. These are the tough mirrors to see ourselves in. They could prevent a smooth career from derailing, as the asks from one self-change significantly at different stages of a career.
Brand advocates: In today’s world, one’s reputation precedes one’s resume. Consistent delivery across a range of pitches and in a variety of playing conditions is the best reputation to work at. But even more importantly, your softer dimensions of personality and leadership become the key career ingredients beyond mere functional skills. The best brand amplifiers for your career are those who have worked with you. As they spread their wings across various organisations, a consistent positive reputation reinforces your career. A poor or bipolar reputation does create career roadblocks.
Diversity buoys: Careers today are always at risk. It is imperative to keep broad-basing skills and experiences, learning new behavioral and leadership competencies. It is important to constantly search for newer crucibles of experience.We need more plurality of managers, organisations, functions, locations, maybe industries. It is then that we keep reinventing ourselves. Unfortunately, most people hire for past experience rather than the potential for new possibilities.Look for those possibilities. Get out of your comfort zones. And you would possibly make yourself more relevant and your career more de-risked.
Careers then are not guided by mere past education and experience. They are products beyond oneself. But it needs people to not confuse individual ownership of their careers with playing a solo sport.Get your team act right and your career will not remain a game of Ludo.