By John Lees FREC (pictured), a former Chief Executive of the Institute of Employment Consultants and author of a range of careers books including ‘How To Get A Job You’ll Love and Take Control of Your Career’ .
Beginning to take control
The nation’s favourite strategies for moving on and up in the organisation are largely passive. Many still live in hope that someone will manage our marketing career for us. Even though recruitment specialists expect everyone else to have their career planned, for most people in the industry fighting this week’s fires is more pressing. On average, most of us spend more time planning an annual holiday than we do planning our marketing careers.
Having a marketing career plan seems like hard work, so most of us don’t do it. We give more time in a year to home decoration decisions than our careers. The result? - Our job changes are guided mainly by chance, and usually by reacting to circumstances. Here are some activities to help you take control.
Perform an audit
Begin by capturing the things you are good at. Catalogue your marketing achievements, breakthroughs and areas of learning every 6 months. Work with someone you know well who can remind you of the things you do well, and times when you have made a difference. Choose positive colleagues who will give you constructive ideas for transforming your career.
Look at what presses your buttons
What gets you out of bed on a dark Winters morning? Money is only a partial motivator – what kind of work would you do if all jobs paid the same? For many the real driving forces are about variety, learning, embracing a challenge – or about organisational values.
Get an overview of your career
Take a snapshot picture of where you are right now. Use three basic questions:
- What kind of marketing work do I find both energising and challenging?
- What outcomes does my present or next employer really seek?
- How can I exploit the overlap, or create one?
The result is that you offer a much clearer match between your personal wish list and the needs of an employer. Knowing why you are preferred compared to the competition keeps you sharp, and requires a constant focus on your organisation’s goals.
Build on your employer awareness.
Take a good look at the company you work for. Do you know where it’s going? Research your present employer as carefully as if it was a major new customer you were trying to win. Cultivate the people who know everyone and everything – whether it’s the security guard or the boss’s PA.
Look for quick wins. Seek short-term results that have a major impact. Ask front line staff ‘what tricks are we missing?’ and ‘what could we do better…?’
Know that small moments matter
Ten minutes in an interview room can get you a job that will last you ten years. Similarly, a very small sample of your behaviours contributes to promotion success. Managers usually make a decision to promote based on brief, one-off events.
These are often public presentations or very visible team contributions (even if it’s organising the charity fun run). Put maximum effort into well-pitched, lively presentations and productive meetings.
Career progression, ultimately, is not a question of what you do, but how far you are seen to be doing the things that matter. Taking small steps now to become more aware can make a huge difference to the way you spend the next 10 years of your life.
10 Point Checklist for refreshing your career
1. Self-review regularly. Record your achievements every 6 months.
2. Understand what motivates you. Know what you enjoy doing and what makes you effective.
3. Look for ways for going beyond your job description. Seek a win/win between your wishlist and the aims of the organisation.
4. Spend more time understanding what your clients are really looking for – the best consultants never kid themselves that they completely know the job.
5. Be aware that it’s easy to get into a rut: constantly look for ways of expanding and varying your job role.
6. Don’t lose sight of the reason you came into the industry in the first place – whether it’s the thrill of the chase or the opportunity to look after clients properly.
7. Stay in touch with changes in your sector.
8. Don’t stop networking – other people are key to your learning and to your career development.
9. When do you move on, interrogate the next job and organisation very carefully – recruiters are good at selling just the best aspects of the job!
Stock your lifeboat before jumping ship: understand what you are really looking for rather than passively reacting to advertised or headhunted opportunities.
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