Become the CEO of your Career
Being a business coach, mentor, business owner, board advisor and a management consultant, I get the opportunity to meet and work with a very diverse range of people and businesses. Through my clients, colleagues and previous employees I am often asked for a career assessment or advice. With a diverse background and experience leading teams, as well as the title of “coach”, I guess that makes perfect sense. It's a wonderful privilege to be trusted as a coach and help people along their journey to achieve their goals.
By and large most of the people I meet and work with are talented, intelligent and driven individuals. They commit themselves to their job, their boss, their staff and their overloaded schedule and hate not delivering. What I find curious is that with such high work ethics and focus on their job, they rarely seem to leave any time for managing their own career. Sound familiar?
Being CEO of your career requires much the same commitment, focus and skills necessary to be a leader in business. As you know, successful careers rarely happen without effort and focus.
As a CEO you are the leader, the decision maker, the coach, the visionary and motivator for those in your team. The buck stops with you. Similarly as CEO of your own career, you need to be all those things for yourself. And just like a CEO, be able to see what is required before it occurs and be ready to take action.
Good CEO's question everything and are by nature curious. Never taking things for granted and always attuned to what is working and what is not working in their business. Same again for you and your career.
When looking at your career trajectory and taking control of where you should go, there are some important questions that should be asked:
What are the things I most enjoy in the jobs I have had?
What is it that I want to be doing in the next 3 years?
Where do I see my next role? Company? Position? Responsibilities? Location? Profile? etc
Have I got the skills and experience I need to win that role?
What changes will I need to make to reach my goal? Are they achievable?
Am I investing in the activities that will help me achieve my career goals?
Do I know the risks and challenges associated with chasing my career and am I ready to take them on?
What do I want to be known for?
Being the CEO of your career requires you take to control of your destiny and be aware that the we live in a world of constant change. Signing up as a junior in a company and then working your way to the top, as occurred in the early and mid 1900's, is a rarity. Job churn is high, and the constant evolution of the workplace is changing the demand for people, skills and experience. The 40 - 50 age bracket of today is likely to have has as many jobs as pre baby-boomers had in their entire working life.
You’re in charge of your career - nobody else. Therefore, it is your responsibility to think beyond today and accept that career circumstances are probably going to change a number of times as you pivot towards your career goals. Being agile and responsive to the dynamics of the marketplace are key to your success. This requires investment by you in building your profile, skills and knowledge.
We've compiled some simple tips and advice on how to become the CEO of your Career.
"First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end."
Do you have a vision for your career? A narrative that describes how and where you will be working and living in the next three years?
Think of your vision not as a single statement. Think of it as the way you would describe a dream or picture of everything you aspire to be, have and desire. It needs to be that dream that inspires you in your work life.
When we start out in business, before we have experience, before we have colleagues, before we have skills; it is sometimes only our dreams and our vision that we have to motivate us, guide us and inspire.
Be clear on what you want to be and achieve and set that as your guiding light leading you to your career goals.
Don't skimp on your dreams. Don't underestimate the power of a vision.
Now a coach or mentor can sound like a luxury that you just can't afford. But what if a coach or mentor could fast-track your plans?
It is important to remember that a coach/mentor is not a consultant who comes into your business and tells you what to do, or does it for you. A coach is an advisor and confidante that listens to what you are feeling, where you’re at in your business and then facilitates discussions to help develop solutions to your problems, and uncover unrealised opportunities.
A good coach is important because they are an independent sounding board and can act as your commercial conscience to keep you on track - your own Jimminy Cricket. They will keep you accountable to your vision when the rest of the world is going crazy and you seem to have more questions than answers.
If chosen appropriately, they will also bring business experience, skills and knowledge that you don't have. They should most certainly have a communication style that makes you comfortable and allows you to be totally honest. Even CEO's need help sometimes.
A coach or mentor can see things that you can't, and this can be extremely important in helping you guide and manage your career.
Successful executives network. I have found that committing between 3-5 hours a week networking pays huge dividends in building profile, brand, knowledge and business.
Networking is also a key way of getting you engaged with those who can influence your career in a way that is not selling, promoting or hustling. You get to help people, and people will be keen to help you.
Investing in developing your career through networking will create real opportunities through referrals and introductions for jobs that just don't get advertised.
Continuous learning is important for the modern day executive hoping to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving workplace. We are seeing entire occupations, trades and industries expanding, contracting and disappearing at an alarming pace. What was once an in demand skill, is now replaced by machines and/or automation.
Executives must keep renewing their skills and knowledge to stay on top of the trends impacting their workplace and industry. Investing in courses, attending conferences, listening to podcasts and subscribing to industry publications are necessary to continue learning.
It is estimated that 60% of the new jobs created in the near future will require skills currently possessed by a mere 20% of workers today. For example, twenty years ago the demand for data scientists was miniscule - now we can't find enough.
The world changes quickly. Good CEO's read the play and anticipate what will be required in the future and ensure they are are ready. You need to do the same. Being behind the pack puts you at risk and is no way to get to a position where you are in control of your career.
How much do you read? Is it enough? This tip is closely aligned to continuous learning, but it is so important, it needs to be called out. It is reported that successful people are avid readers. And what do they read? They lean more towards educational books and publications over novels, tabloids, and magazines. Biographies and autobiographies of other successful people hit the top of the list for guidance and inspiration.
Forbes reported that when Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
And he’s not alone. Many entrepreneurs and business leaders make reading a major part of their daily lifestyle. Here's a couple worth noting:
Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year,
Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours every day
Elon Musk is an avid reader
Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read a book every 2 weeks throughout 2015
Oprah Winfrey selects one of her favourite books every month for her Book Club members to read and discuss
There are many. For me, reading books provides inspiration, guidance and motivation. Knowing others have tackled similar (or bigger) challenges and been successful can be very comforting. Kind of handy having some of the world's most successful people sharing your journey via their books too.
Your personal brand tells the world who you are and is becoming increasingly important in a content saturated digital world for advancing your career, getting a new job, winning new business or creating your own business.
Managing your personal brand is a key strategy for leading your career to the job of your dreams. You need to prepare yourself for the job you want and show those who can get you there that you are ready, willing and able.