Men’s Health (yes I read it) had a thought provoking article on career progression in the April 2008 issue. The theme of the article was ‘fast track your career by making the right move at the right time’:

  • 6 months on the job, self assess: They suggest a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). The focus of the SWOT being the job and environment (i.e. strength – pay, threat – downsizing). I think this is the a bit myopic in scope. In my last few roles, I looked at the 6 month mark as a key point to step out of the day to day, take a deep breath and look around. I would suggest the SWOT be more than that. I ask a host of questions to myself to get that 360 degree view of where I am. A few examples:
    • At the 6 month mark you have emerged from the initial 30, 60, 90 plan (XXXXXX) and key initiatives, changes or big bets should be progressing or breaking open. Are they?
    • How is the network internally and externally?
    • Happy with the role?
    • How is the work life balance?
    • What is the next stage of the plan? Is it necessary to simply continue on with the initial plan or change tack?
    • What am I learning? What do I not know and how can I learn it?
    • Most importantly, take stock and think what would I do differently? That first 90-180 is a learning green field.
  • 12 months on the job, keep learning: The essence of their advice, what are you learning? Your efficiency in the existing role should be going up so what are you doing to fill that extra time? Keep learning. I would suggest this is also the logical next step to introduce the next formal stage of your business plan. Take it to the next level.
  • 2 years on the job, swap roles: This is where they lose me. They argue that ‘your CV should show regular changes … or you may look like you lack ambition’. If I think over my career, this was true when I was in my 20s. As I moved into my 30s and more senior roles – tenure became a huge benefit and my company/role changes were replaced with in role promotions. I know that when I hire for a role if I see a CV with a change every 2 years my alarm goes off. In sales this is even more important, a speaker once referenced an IBM study which found that sales professionals were their most productive (i.e. made the most MONEY) at year 4. I know that this was absolutely true when I was a rep – not only was my job 100% easier, but I nailed my quota every year because I knew everyone. It was great, I kept getting promoted, made lots of money, enjoyed the company of some great clients (who became friends) and enjoyed a healthy golf handicap. The key thing? The last point … keep learning, and only you can drive that goal.

An interesting stat, in an interview of 6,000 people, 90% said that further education had increased their job satisfaction while 77% said that it had helped them secure a better job.

  • 4 years on the job, take a break or know when to quit:  They suggest either taking a break (perhaps a sabbatical or extended vacation to recharge) or quitting because you have been passed over. Again, I challenge this thought. If I am in my 20s, yes. Smart sales organizations are working to ensure that there is career progression in role. In this situation, I would suggest self reflection:
    • Do you still love what you do?
    • Are you learning? If not – what can you do to change that? You are the architect of your destiny, no one else.
    • Are you progressing in that role (promotions if available) or are you being rewarded? It isn’t always about the promotion, it is about the package.
    • Most important – are you happy? Do you love what you do? Look inside .. how is life. One of the benefits of the 4 year tenure is life balance. It is all about judging your situation based upon your point in life.

Interesting read. A few more random thoughts that I have collected on career:

  • Moderate drinkers earn 17% more than their abstemious colleagues according to Stirling University. They also increase their chance of moving up the corporate ladder by networking with their superiors. Of note, the study also showed that if you exceed the government limits that salaries drop. Moderation ….
  • Research by the Employment Review into the disciplinary actions of employers found that 59% of knuckle rappings were as a result of poor punctuality. Punctuality is not just to a meeting, it is getting that report in on time, meeting that timeline commitment. This is so true. It is amazing to see someone’s great work get lost in the noise of not meeting deadlines or being sloppy around internal process. Such a simple thing to fix, such a big potential impact.

Of course, be careful as you move up. Make sure this does not happen, I have seen it WAY to many times (put your cursor over the picture to reveal the ‘play’ button).

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