What I wanted to do in this post is give you some food for thought, some things to consider to boost your career and get you into the driver’s seat of your life. I work with the Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 and have done for many years. For years I did what I was asked to do on the job, delivering results for other people but not thinking about where I was going or keeping my career in tip-top condition.
A week ago, I was talking with one of my clients about the new job they had started. Earlier in the year I had worked with them to transition out of where they were into a new role. The problem with their old role is that it was on an older on premise version of Dynamics and this person felt that they were being left behind in their career as all the changes on the Power Platform and Dynamics 365 are happening online.
This person took massive action and changed a heap of stuff around how they were branded in the market, started applying for jobs, and landed a new one working with Dynamics 365 Field Service. So, all very positive. After 4-6 weeks in the role I asked, “What are you doing about your career?”
I said you have to be careful about ending up where you just came from, a couple of years into a role and the technology may have changed, but you missed it because you are not in control of your career. You have your head down in project work, delivering someone else’s goals, but forgetting that while helping your employer to achieve their goals you also need to keep your own career goals top of mind and keep working on them.
As I thought about this situation, I came up with these 10 Actions to keep your career on track, and keep you open to all the opportunities that you may want to consider.
Action 1 – Start
Start to own your career and stop letting others dictate it for you. You need to get a plan in place, a career map that shows where are you are now, and where you want to be. I recommend that a plan like this should look no more than 36 months into the future. Longer than that and people tend not to act. Plan the following for the next 12, 24 and 36 months.
- What will your income be?
- What skills will you learn?
- What roles will you move into?
- What value will you create?
Action 2 – Read
First, I set a goal; then I learned what style of ready worked best for me. (In my case I use Kindle and Audible together). Then I stopped reading ALL NEWS and SOCIAL MEDIA apart from what was directly related to my career. Most ‘news’ that is produced in the world is designed to engage you emotionally. I found I was constantly snacking on news items that emotionally brought me down rather than lifted me up. Or looking at other people’s perfect social media world and feeling inadequate.
I decided to have a balanced meal and read books. There is so much more effort that goes into writing a book, sometimes years of study and writing, and that’s wanted I want to fill my mind with.
Action 3 – Speak
Learn the skills of public speaking even if you never plan on doing it. Some people say public speaking is not for them. I agree it is not for everyone. But if you learn the skills of public speaking and practice them every week for a year you will find that you become a more confident person and have the skills to handle challenging situations in your career.
You can’t read a book and become an expert public speaker; you need practice. You need feedback; you need to be critiqued to get better at it. You need lots of opportunities to speak in a safe environment with others who are also learning to become public speakers. There is no quick fix for this. This will be the biggest confidence-building tool of your life, if you apply yourself weekly and practice public speaking.
Action 4 – Eat
Here are some ideas for finding these people:
- People in management that you don’t report to
- Clients/customers of your company
- Suppliers to your company
- Partners that work with your company
- Thought leaders in your industry
- The receptionist
- The cleaner
- Other people in the community
- Create a list and start with one new person a week and work up from there until you have five lunches a week with people outside your work colleague circle
Action 5 – Focus
Do one thing and do it really, really well. Focus is essential if you want to be known for expertise in an area that is in high demand; it takes more effort to focus on gaining these skills. For example, a brain surgeon is an expert on brains, not hearts, lungs, or some other part of the body. They are experts on brains. They have taken years and years to get to that level of expertise because they focused, they specialized.
What is your area of focus for your career? What are you known for, or going to be known for? What’s it going to take for you to reach that goal? What good ideas will you need to give up to be great in your chosen area?
I like this quote from Jim Collins – “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” If you are going to be great in your career, you need to Focus.
Action 6 – Diversity
This is not what you think it is. What I am talking about is learning new skills that may not be in your lane or area of focus. This is the balance to my point above. When I went to school a very long time ago, someone told me to get involved in all the activities at school, the clubs etc. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. The more you get involved, the more opportunity that comes your way.
You have extra choices available to you, you have a better chance of finding what you will give and the legacy you want to leave. As an example, you may not want to become an expert in Artificial Intelligence (AI), but you should know enough about it to be informed and not ignorant. If you lean more to right-brained activities, consider what left brain activities and skills you can develop. Get outside your comfort zone and try new things even if they scare you.
Action 7 – Brand
LinkedIn is the modern-day CV (curriculum vitae) that can always be up to date if you do it right. If you want to be considered knowledgeable and skilled in a specific area, does your personal website reflect this? If the hiring manager looked at your Twitter profile, does it show you are plugged-in to the community and other thought leaders in your chosen technology and industry?
Action 8 – Negotiate
Learn how to Negotiate. I have mentioned this a few times in past posts that you should read one book on negotiation every year so it keeps you sharp. If you learn the skills of negation it will help you engage with:
- Clients and customers
- Your boss
- Your children/parents
- Your spouse
- Your friends
Action 9 – Sell
You may have a bad perception of a salesperson from movies or experience. But don’t let limiting beliefs stop you from moving your career forward. Learn how to sell, no matter your role. Learn how to spot opportunities; it comes with an open mindset. If your company offers a sales course, ask to be on it, even though you are not in sales. In sales I have learned you need to be good at three things:
- Industry Knowledge
- Product Knowledge
- Buyer Knowledge
Think about the industry you have decided to work in, do you take time to learn all you can about your industry? If you assessed your industry knowledge each quarter, are you proactively learning about your industry, not just in your region, but worldwide? What plan could you put in place to increase your industry knowledge?
Product knowledge is a never-ending journey in our industry. Do you have a proactive plan in place written down, to learn everything about the product you have decided to focus on?
What are you doing to learn all you can about your buyer? This may be your hiring manager or customer. Do you understand their business; have you research what’s important to them? Once again do you have a plan in place to provide them massive value before you are asked?
Action 10 – Shit
We need to get great at it; we need to get great at getting this done. In the day to day activities of life, we need systems to get things done in the most productive way possible to reduce unhealthy stress and allow us to spend time with friends, family and playing. I have found GTD a great tool to deal with the ‘stuff’ of life. If you don’t have a great system already for maximizing the time you have, consider GTD. If you do have an excellent method for getting the most from time, please share it in the comments and let me know why I should learn it.
I hope you have found these ten actions helpful in moving your career forward. I called them actions and not ideas because if you don’t ACT and DO, expect them not to work for you 😊