31 Oct Have you Thought About These 3 Key Career Development Questions?
In a world of work where each one of us is the oarsman for our own ship, are you asking these 3 powerful career development questions of yourself?
Am I doing something ‘challenging’ enough?
‘Challenging’ – it’s such an overused word that very often we lose sight of what it actually means and whether something is challenging or not. Most of the times, we can keep doing things on auto-pilot mode, and because there is so much inefficiency that we take for granted in what we are doing, that anything even which causes us to even slightly break into a sweat, becomes our definition of challenging.
Career development questions No. 1 – Are you challenging yourself enough?
Think about what can really get you nervous and excited at the same time – that’s what is challenging. And are you doing enough of such challenging stuff at work? Sometimes, that kind of challenge lies on the fringes of what your core work is. For instance, as a leadership consultant and facilitator, I was used to designing and delivering leadership development workshops for large companies for their own people. But this had ceased to be challenging – while I was growing my core facilitation skills, I wasn’t doing anything which made me nervous and excited.
To up the level of challenge, I decided to go ahead and launch my very own open enrolment workshop for mid-career individuals looking for clarity and purpose. This emerged out of my own experiences of finding clarity and direction during my mid-career transition, and of course my training as a facilitator. But the challenge was not only to design and deliver, it was also to take it to market successfully. This meant learning new skills on the fringes of facilitation, like social media savvy, product development and marketing. It was quite thrilling and I slowly began to enjoy using the expanded repertoire of my skills.
Nervous and excited at the same time – use these words to remind you of how you should feel when choosing challenging work and go ahead and find more such work.
Is perseverance helping or harming my career?
As a very young entrepreneur at 26, I got stuck to a business idea which was way ahead of its time. It was a self-funded venture that my husband and I had started; we poured in all our savings and cut no corners in creating a great platform and service. This was about selling traditional Indian art and craft online, but back in 2005, much before the advent of smartphones and e-commerce in India in a big way, this idea had very few takers.
So while we were onto something big, we were on our own too small to create the enabling infrastructure which could have made an online venture like this successful. We felt we had to make it succeed, and persisted against all odds for a good three years, but eventually we had to wind up. And recovering from the losses and building my career in a new direction took a good amount of time post this experience.
One of the very important career development questions we had missed asking ourselves was, “Are we persevering too far and is this actually damaging our careers?” Of course, in hindsight I know I learnt incredibly valuable lessons of entrepreneurship, but at that time, we didn’t have a plan for how long we would be on that quest. Our reasons to persevere were our passion for Indian art, but that on its own, without us having the necessary business acumen was not going to take us far. And we didn’t admit soon enough to ourselves that we were pretty naïve in terms of setting up a viable business.
Even when you think long term about your career (which you must), you need to have checkpoints and some broad goals to help you review your growth. And this isn’t just advice for entrepreneurs. If you’re in a full-time job too, if you get the feeling that despite your best efforts and your delivering the goods, you aren’t getting the right rewards, or even the acknowledgment, the solution is not always to try harder. Sometimes it’s about thinking smarter, thinking different and really reflecting on what you want most. And then being brave enough to call it quits in one direction and get started towards another.
Am I able to self-promote myself without being obnoxious about it?
You are not going to get to any place worth getting to if you can’t self-promote. That’s because most of us work in free markets governed by the rules of supply and demand. If people don’t know about your strengths, you’re unlikely to have a glittering career ahead of you.
Career development question No. 3 – Do I own my skills and strengths and provide value through them
Career development rests on being able to self-promote, but in a way that’s not obnoxious and which makes you look like a jerk. So while you can post pictures of yourself receiving an award, on social media sites like LinkedIn, what counts for far more in your self-promotion efforts, is if you can establish yourself as a credible, authentic and generous expert.
How do you self-promote for your own career development? First, give before asking. Provide genuine value to others, before you seek something from them. Second, trust in your expertise enough to put yourself out there and share your voice around areas of your expertise. You can’t expect others to take a bet on you, if you’re not ready to show you are confident enough to inspire their trust. Third, help others to help you. Demonstrate and talk about your work with real enthusiasm and ask people to recommend you. If you don’t ask for recommendations, you’re not going to get any.
Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 20 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.