We’ve all had those days when you drum your fingers on the dashboard and think “I need to quit.”

Maybe you had a disagreement with your manager, your commute was painful, or you were bored to tears. Maybe it was just one of those days when nothing was going your way, or you’ve been feeling like this for months and a straw came along in the form a terse email and it broke the camel’s back.

But before you send that resignation letter to head onto what may or may not be greener pastures, it’s worth seeing if there is an opportunity to job craft in your current role.

What is Job Crafting

Job Crafting is a process of making adjustments in your current position so that the job you have now becomes a job you love again. Those adjustments may be different for each person, but some ideas include taking on an interesting project, raising your hand to join a new committee, requesting a work-from-home arrangement, or setting boundaries with colleagues.

The benefits of job crafting are that you don’t need to go through the job search process (right now), you can retain your stability in your current role, and you can prepare yourself for a future move by boosting your confidence and potentially learning new skills.

Curious if job crafting is for you? Check out these 5 signs that job crafting instead of job searching might be for you.

1. Big parts of your job are great, except...

Often people will jump to start a job search or accept an offer for a new position because of shiny object syndrome. For example, you’re offered a new salary, a bigger office, a fully remote job, or an important title.

However, those jumps don’t always work out the way people would like because the elements that were truly causing their job dissatisfaction are present in the new role too, or they are exacerbated.

Determine the one or two most important things that would need to change in your current role to increase your job satisfaction and then assess what power you have to make those changes. Perhaps you can negotiate your salary, work from home twice a week, or approach an old

project with a new creative lens. Test out your hypothesis at your current job knowing that job searching can still be an option if this job craft isn’t ideal.

2. You have a great manager.

If you have a supportive manager who is invested in your career development, a conversation about job crafting could be welcome and encouraged.

Even the best managers can’t read your mind, so it’s important that you share your career goals and come to your manager with solutions. Set up a one to one conversation to discuss your job crafting plans and provide a clear plan on how you will continue to fulfill your job responsibilities while making some changes to your schedule/deliverables/style that will benefit you and the team.

3. You’ve seen models of success.

Have other team members successfully crafted their roles? If so, there could be potential within your company to make changes in your position as well.

Talk with colleagues within your company that are doing work that interests you or who have a work arrangement you find appealing. Ask them about how they have approached conversations around job crafting with their manager to learn best practices for navigating the conversation within your organization. Or seek their advice on how to successfully work on cross-functional teams or propose a job share.

4. Now isn’t the right time to make a change.

There may never be a perfect time to job search, but there are life circumstances that make making a change at a certain point in time particularly undesirable.

For example, you and your family are planning a move in 6 months so staying in your current role makes sense for now. Or, you are managing a health issue and need the stability of your current job and healthcare plan. There are any number of reasons it could make sense for you to press pause on the job search.

However, just because you aren’t going to make a move now doesn’t mean you can’t be happier in your job. See the suggestions above for how to think about job crafting to make the short term more fulfilling or a better fit for your life while knowing you have the consistency you need at this time.

5. Job Crafting will help in your Job Search.

Lastly, even if you feel ready to start a new job right now, that new job you’re after may need you to further prove that you are the right fit for the role. That’s where job crafting to gain experience comes in.

Let’s say you are targeting a management role, and your current position does not include any direct management responsibilities. Are there projects you could take on that would allow you to show how you lead a team? Or you may want to move into a technical position that requires you to use specific software or data analytics tools. Could you bring any of those tools into your current role to make a process more efficient?

Job crafting in this way benefits your current employer because they get a re-energized and innovative teammate - that’s you! It also allows you to add new accomplishment-based bullet points to your resume that provide evidence you have the skills needed to take on the next position.

By Heather Wilkerson

Are you contemplating career change? Does a feeling of drudgery start creeping into your system every Sunday evening? Perhaps you’re dreading meetings and projects for the upcoming week. Or maybe you asking yourself, “Why am I staying here? Is there possibly something better out there?” During the pandemic, many people had a chance to step away from their positions and ask these questions. Many found themselves answering, “Yes! There is something better for me.” For other people, the answer is more nuanced, related to burnout or recalibrating their career path.

How to decide what is really the best way to proceed in your career? If you think of your career as a journey, there is the possibility of many options and interesting paths that could all be worth exploring. Similar to the planning for any journey, I encourage you to define where you currently are, ask, “What is the real purpose of my journey?” and decide if you are on the right path. This article will focus on honing your career decision-making process and the important factors in planning the journey that’s right for you.

Many factors can lead you to contemplate a career change. It could be burnout, lack of engagement, or a change in your life situation. Often people have found they desire more meaningful work or flexibility to create a more balanced lifestyle. Don’t ignore the uncomfortable feeling of discontent in your gut when thinking about your career – you are not alone.

Research shows that we master a position after a couple of years and will experience boredom and a need for change about every 3 years. Our minds want to grow and learn. Harvard Business School also found that having some sense of meaning in your work is vital to job satisfaction. Another area of huge importance is relationships at work. We are social creatures that crave healthy relationships!

When you are taking a journey and begin to feel lost it is tempting to take the first exit. However, this could get you extremely off course or look like the right path, but in reality, become a dead-end road. Worrying about taking the wrong road often leads to clutching the steering wheel and just continuing in the same direction because it feels familiar.

Before heading out or at least continuing in the same unsatisfying direction, first evaluate the problems with your current position. Then try identifying the best path for you, one that leads towards a destination you are looking forward to experiencing. And how do you do that? Start with an accurate picture of your current situation and explore the assets, values, and motivators that help you define where you would like to go.

Contemplating career change: What is the reality of my current situation?

If you look at your current role, what are you experiencing? Are you bored and no longer seeing ways to grow and develop in your current career? Think back over your career, and you’ll probably see a pattern of new opportunities and responsibilities that offered you growth in the past. You may have outgrown your position. Or you may have outgrown your organization.

Often disgruntled employees discover they no longer believe in the company's purpose. This can occur if an organization becomes toxic and either engages in unethical behaviors, disrespects employees, or has unrealistic goals that employees frantically try to achieve, resulting in sacrificing self-care and burn-out.

If your current situation lacks growth, you no longer align with the mission and vision, or you do not feel safe or respected, then that is a clear sign that you should consider a job change. If not all apply, then perhaps you can find a way to better align yourself within the organization. If you are unsure, it may be time for self-exploration.

Are You On Someone Else's Path?

Some people progress down the wrong path and stay too long because they can't figure out how to get off and the pain is not great enough to force a move. Often the reason is that the path has gone askew and the necessary course correction is not clear. One reason may be that we have not stayed in the driver's seat of our career. You may find yourself heading down the completely wrong path doing work that others wanted you to do but is no longer tied to your values and motivators.

As a career coach, I have time and again had clients who fell into positions that used a skill they were good at but did not give them much joy. They agreed to projects where they were praised by others even though it drained their energy. Does this sound familiar to you? In these situations, it is actually quite easy to follow others since the road is mapped out and looks familiar. People often stay in the same career but jump from one organization to the next, misreading the road signs. It’s time to get back in the driver's seat and take control of your own career satisfaction. Start by asking, “Where did I get off track? Where did I stop paying attention to what I found interesting and motivating to me?”

Before exiting, take a moment to evaluate if any part of this unhappiness is able to be turned around at your current organization. What if you take control of your choices and lay down your own road with specific directions laid out for others so they can support you on this path? There are often many ways to create more fulfilling options within your own company once you know what to look for and how to describe the path to others.

Create Your Own Path

To more accurately evaluate if your current organization still holds options for you, it is important to be clear on your desired journey. Burnett and Evans, in Designing Your Life, recommend that the first thing to do is build a compass. Ask yourself who you are, what you believe, and what you are doing, and then look for any incongruences. They suggest taking time to evaluate what work means to you, the importance of money, and the value of growth and fulfillment.

Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, uncovered in his research that people who found a connection between their work and something socially meaningful for them found much more life satisfaction. Often we ask the wrong question, “What is the ideal job?” when really we should ask, “What do we enjoy doing currently?”

What is the best part of your day? Start by asking what brings you joy when you play and when do you feel in flow where time just slips away? What gives you energy and what drains you? What motivates you and feels meaningful? There are several tools to help you with this process.

One exercise is to think of times in your past when you had a perfect day and everything clicked. Take some time to notice when and where you have felt most energized. This could have been during work, a hobby, or vacation. Consider what you were doing and the surrounding environment. Get curious about what you were enjoying, what was important to you, and how you were motivated. It’s often helpful to write down the best parts. Can you identify how you added value and what skills and strengths you were using? Then compare to assessments of your motivators and what you describe as purposeful uses of your time.

Combining all this information gives you the foundation for uncovering your desired path. If you find that identifying what is important to you, your key strengths, and where you get energy is challenging, I would recommend delving into some structured career assessment tools. If you have gained some clarity about motivators, values, and strengths then you have uncovered the fundamental parts of your career compass. The ultimate goal of this compass-building is to find congruency between the life you want to live and your career path.

Let’s put this compass to use!

Armed with a new lens of self-information, take the satellite view in evaluating your current work situation. In comparing what you are doing now with your new career vision, can you find a tie to some of your motivators and energy builders within your current position, department, or organization? Through the new lens, can you uncover any congruence, opportunities for growth, and learning that is inspiring for you?

At the top of this article, we mentioned other causes of job dissatisfaction such as burnout, boredom, and lack of fulfillment. If these sentiments still resonate, then explore what is missing that is important to you and notice how your energy is being zapped. Remember fulfillment includes not only what you do well but what you would like to keep doing. If it's clear at this point that you are in the wrong place, then it's time to create a new path.

Find a New Road

Here’s the catch, though. None of this exploration will point to the exact perfect position within the perfect organization. It merely lays the groundwork to help you clarify, evaluate, and choose which paths to explore or cross off the list. You have already started this process by building your compass and determining what you hope to experience on this journey.

You may choose to explore some side roads, tangential paths that are closely associated with a strength, a passion, or special talent. If you have jumped onto someone else's path, take some time to reconnect with your strengths and skills. As you enter the exploration phase, look for people you admire, interesting ideas, fun professional projects, or even hobbies to dive into and test out possible career options. There are myriad ways to define and act upon the next career path.

When charting your career path, build and use your personal compass to help you understand the career satisfaction aspects for which you’re actually looking, uncover the draining tasks or skills traps and connect to motivators. Armed with a good compass and clear goals for your trip, your career journey will be filled with growth opportunities, successful options, and places to let your strengths shine.

Check out our other career content at PathWise.io

 

References

Books

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Designing Your Life.

 

Articles

Annie McKee. The Happiness Trap. Harvard Business Review.

Allison E McWilliams Ph.D. Signs It Might Be Time to Change Jobs. Psychology Today.

Shelcy V. Joseph. Should You Stay At Your Current Job? Forbes.

Do you ever think about the legacy you want to leave?

Most of us don’t give this topic too much thought when we’re early in our careers. It feels like a “far off” concept, and we’re usually too focused on our own careers and on the many other day-to-day activities that fill our lives. But as we advance further into our careers, and start contemplating retirement (whatever that word means to each of us) and maybe even our own mortality, it’s natural to be thinking about the legacy we’re going to leave behind.

In terms of our professional legacies, we create these in several ways:

  1. Through the organizations that we build (or build upon)
  2. Through the people whose careers and lives we touch
  3. Through the ways in which we advance our industries, professions, or perhaps even the broader world
  4. Through the social good we do

In our initial “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcast episodes, we’ve already encountered leaders who are leaving a legacy in each of these areas:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very different leaders. Very different legacies. But a consistent theme of impact. Check out our podcast to hear their inspiring stories more fully.

What will be your legacy?

In days past, the phrase, “moving into the C-suite” conjured images of luxuriously appointed corner offices (complete with bar tray), wood paneled (and probably smoke-filled) boardrooms, heady conversations that lasted well into the evening, cordoned-off executive dining areas, and a host of support staff scurrying about at the beck-and-call of the CEO and (usually) his team (and it usually was a “he”). Today’s world is obviously very different, but successfully moving into a C-level role continues to require much of the same preparation as it did a generation ago.

If you’re on the verge of taking on a C-level role, or if you’re merely aspiring to that level at some point in the future, here are five suggestions for how to better prepare yourself:

1. Adopt a “whole company” mindset

Up until now, you may have been able to get away with being somewhat parochial in your perspectives as related to your firm or your industry. You’re perhaps seen as a sales leader or an operations person or a finance specialist. If you want to add value at the top of the company, though, you need a working knowledge of the whole company as well as of the industry in which you participate. Address your gaps in knowledge and learn about other parts of the business by meeting with your colleagues in those areas, reading corporate-level strategic documents, listening to earnings calls, etc. Make sure you really understand how your company earns revenues, where its expenses lie, what drives profits, what segments of customers it serves, how it positions itself competitively, the state of its balance sheet, the stated corporate strategy, any regulatory frameworks under which it operates, etc. Take an interest in the current priorities of the various members of the executive team and how they fit together to create an overall execution plan. All of this learning will better prepare you for a top role.

2. Seek broadening experiences

If you still see your move into the top ranks as a few years out, identify opportunities in your current role to learn a new skill or get exposure to a new situation. Seek out other roles that will help fill in areas where you’ve got less of a track record. Find mentors who can help broaden your perspective. Get input from the head of HR or ask members of the executive team what they find most important to their roles and what they felt they were lacking when they took their current positions. If you’ve got the time to address your gaps through an actual broadening experience, be strategic and seek it out.

3. Get Board-level and Investor Relations exposure

Almost all companies beyond a certain size have Boards of Directors. Their role is to guide the company on behalf of the company’s shareholders. They hire the CEO and approve executive compensation, among other responsibilities. As a senior executive, you will likely have regular engagement with individual members of the Board, with Board committees, or with the full Board. You’ll be better prepared for those interactions if you seek out opportunities to get to know them earlier on and get to lead or participate in discussions with them during Board meetings. Push for these opportunities.

Getting Investor Relations experience is similar, if you’re in or considering working for a public company. At a minimum, listen to the quarterly earnings calls, particularly for the questions that analysts raise. Read their coverage, if you can get access to it. (Ask your IR department to share it with you.) Where possible, look to participate in the earnings preparation process to give yourself more exposure to how the Investor Relations team prepares for an earnings release. If you firm holds an Investor Day, read through the materials that are shared and listen to the recording of the session, if you aren’t able to attend it directly.  Look at who your firm’s 5-10 largest shareholders are. Are they institutional shareholders or individuals? Are the institutional holders doing so because your firm is part of an index or have they taken an active position? Have they invested for growth (stock price appreciation) or value (dividend payments). All of these mechanisms will give you a better sense of how your CEO and CFO are managing your company’s relationship with the Street and investor base.

4. Work out your rough spots

Undoubtedly, you’ve honed your skills as you’ve climbed through the ranks. You’ve probably picked up some habits as well, not all of them good. Some you’ll know about, some you may not. Either way, seek out an independent evaluation of yourself that goes beyond the depth of the typical year-end performance review. Ask family and friends to describe your good and bad points. Get a leadership coach. Have a 360-degree feedback survey done on your behalf. As a point of reference, consider Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There for his list of 20 common bad habits that many leaders need to shake. Whatever source(s) of input you choose, go into the process open-minded. Don’t be dismissive or defensive. We’re all imperfect, even those most admired among us. Commit to always working on your imperfections – and expect to have to work harder to get honest feedback – as you move into progressively more senior roles.

5. Build your support network

As the adage goes, “It’s lonely at the top.” Indeed, as you move into more senior roles, you lose internal sounding boards and confidantes. You are no longer “one of the gang” but rather are “the boss.” Some people will be able to make that transition with you. Others will suddenly view you differently. The net effect is that you’ll have fewer people with whom you can have open, honest, vulnerable conversations. For this reason, it’s best to put together a “personal board of advisors” as you progress through your career. (For more on personal boards of advisors, check out our prior post.) The members of that group may know they play this role for you, or they may not. You’ll invariably swap out members over the years as relationships ebb and flow, and as your own advisory needs change. Consider as well retaining a leadership coach, whether funded by your company or by you directly. Having these types of relationships in place will absolutely smooth your transition into an executive-level role, and they will help you stay centered both when things are going well and when you’re feeling overwhelmed or challenged.

***

If you’re on the brink of a move into executive management, acknowledge that you’ve already made it further into the higher ranks than the vast majority of people will ever get. Give yourself credit for what you’ve done to make it to this point. At the same time, acknowledge that you don’t (and will never) know everything. Continue to hone your trade and keep working toward being a better version of yourself. We need more humble, empathetic leaders. Be one of them!

Almost all of us contemplate whether to make a career change at some point in our professional lives, some of us more than once. It’s probably easier – and more socially acceptable – than it ever has been to do so, but making a career change wisely requires thought and work.

There are a variety of reasons that lead people to contemplate a career change. While each of us will have our own rationale, Joblist’s Midlife Career Crisis Survey indicates that the top five reasons are:

You might also consider a career change as your values or goals change, after getting laid off, or when your family situation changes, such as might be driven by illness, an aging parent, or a relocation.

Many of the recent articles written on career change make the process seem liberating. You get to free yourself from the shackles of your current situation, you get to leave it all behind, you get to rediscover yourself, etc. But the truth is that successfully making a career change is more difficult than that. It can be daunting, confusing, and stressful. As career coach and “Career Relaunch” podcast host Joseph Liu describes his own situation in an article for Forbes,

“Make no mistake, career pivots involve more friction, disruption, and risk than simply staying on a more linear, traditional career path. Having experienced the emotional ups and downs of navigating career changes myself during the past two decades of my professional life, I’m now focused on understanding what it takes to successfully reinvent yourself.”

With this context, and with the words of poet Mary Oliver in mind – “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – we lay out 12 suggestions for navigating a successful career change:

 

Figure out the why

  1. Take a critical eye. Before you make the leap, consider your reasons for wanting to make a career change:

Be structured and diligent about this evaluation. As helpful, keep a journal or talk over your thoughts with family and friends.

  1. Assess yourself. If you need some prompts for how to consider you overall career health or the fit of your current situation, check out one of our free career assessments. You can also take a more holistic look, covering your values, interests, strengths, and personality type. Some assessments that cover these areas are free, but the more research-based ones typically carry a modest fee of $20-50. Note as well that some (such as Myers-Briggs) must be delivered by a certified practitioner, which may add a further cost.
  1. Get outside help. If ever there is a time to hire a career coach, it’s when you’re considering a career change. Many coaches focus just on this topic. They can offer a wealth of advice and “war stories” from having seen their other clients go through similar journeys. They will help you sharpen your thinking and avoid the common pitfalls. In this light, they are well worth the investment.

 

Figure out the what

  1. Discover your inner Ikigai. You’ll hear many people say, “Pursue your passion, and the rest will follow.” It’s not that simple, and there is even some research offered by author and professor Cal Newport to suggest that people who merely follow their passion are actually less satisfied in the end.

A better mental model comes from the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which roughly translates into “reason for being” and asks you to consider four questions:

Ikigai forces you to blend together your passion, mission, vocation, and profession into your overall reason for being.

  1. Be an explorer. In his article for Forbes, Joseph Liu talks about conducting a period of “open exploration without expectations.” Suspend judgment and give non-traditional ideas consideration. You can also consider more creative ways to learn about potential directions through a job shadow or part-time role. One former colleague was considering a shift into venture capital and took two weeks’ vacation to work for a firm that was willing to give her a shadowing opportunity. She quickly discovered that she wasn’t going to like venture capital and went in a different direction instead. By doing the job shadow (albeit at the expense of her vacation time), she was able to avoid going down a path that wasn’t going to be right for her. 
  1. Write your future. As you’re working to figure out the what, one helpful thought exercise is to write your future autobiography. Picture yourself in the later years of your life. How would you want to describe your professional life and accomplishments to your children, grandchildren, or broader world?

 

Figure out the how

  1. Do your homework. Once you have a sense of the change you want to make, dig in and do your research. Accept that no shortcuts exist and commit to a steady march, not a rush. In Episode 5 of our “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcast (available March 7), Chicago restaurateur Rohini Dey discusses her own shift from a career in management consulting into the restaurant business. Along the way, she spoke to dozens of people in the restaurant business and even shadowed a restaurateur to really understand what it would take to be successful. Those conversations helped prepare her for what was a fairly radical change in career direction.
  1. Form a plan…and have a back-up. Making a career change is a goal. Treat it like any other goal, with specific objectives, interim milestones, timelines, and execution specifics. Assess the risks and the assumptions you’re making. Be clear on what it means for you and for those around you. Then build in regular steps, akin to the sort of incremental improvement that James Clear discusses in Atomic Habits. In addition to your primary plan, have a back-up plan. This is particularly important if you’re embarking on a risker path and expect a period of financial uncertainty. It’s always good to have a contingency plan in your back pocket.
  1. Rebrand yourself, if necessary. If you’re contemplating a significant change, you’re likely going to need to re-position yourself. Evaluate how your existing strengths and experience will be relevant in your new chosen direction. Conduct this exercise on your own, and seek input from others who know you as well. They may see a side of you (good or bad) that you don’t see in yourself, and having that knowledge can only help you as you consider how to evolve your professional brand. Once you’ve identified the changes you need to make, apply them consistently, such as in your social media profiles and your resume or CV.

 

Move into execution

  1. Expand your network. If you’re making a more significant career change, your existing network is going to be less likely to be able to help you, since it will be a product of your career experience to date. With that in mind, be deliberate about expanding your network. Find the friends of friends and the experienced pros who are willing to make time for you. If approached in the right fashion, most people will do so. When you meet with them, ask them who else they would suggest you meet and if they’d be willing to make an introduction. You can also expand your network by joining a professional association (or even an informal MeetUp-type group) in your chosen new space. Jump into some relevant online communities, or attend a conference. Many prior conferences also post videos that are available online.
  1. Plug your gaps. In all likelihood, you are going to bring a partial set of necessary skills to the new path. Take stock of the skills you’re going to need and what you have. Address the gaps, through formal educational programs or via the many instructional videos that are available online. Job shadows, internships, or contract roles can also help in this regard.
  1. Keep moving. Set out regular micro-steps, even imperfect ones. Be willing to accept small mistakes as learning opportunities. Track your progress and what you’re learning as you go. Iterate and adapt, and bring yourself closer to the end goal with each adaptation.

 

While making a career change takes care, thought, and real work, the good news is that most people come through the process better off, as evidenced in the Joblist survey data, where people reported being:

In addition, the people who changed careers were making modestly more money, about $11,000 annually compared with their previous positions.

Best of luck to you as you embark on an exciting new path!

 

Sources and suggested further reading:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/josephliu/2019/04/02/successfully-change-careers/?sh=32d16ec3525c
  2. https://hbr.org/2021/07/the-right-way-to-make-a-big-career-transition
  3. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/change-career-path
  4. https://www.joblist.com/trends/midlife-career-crisis
  5. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/04/920080747/6-tips-for-making-a-career-change-from-someone-who-has-done-it?t=1645346528841
  6. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/successful-career-change-2058452
  7. https://www.themuse.com/advice/8-steps-to-an-utterly-successful-career-change

 

Becoming a manager for the first-time is a pivotal career moment, one that shapes you both inside and outside of work. Harvard Business School Professor Linda Hill describes this transition as:

Your performance in this new role, and your ability to learn and adapt, will have repercussions for years to come. Some new managers blossom as leaders and experience accelerated trajectories thereafter. Others develop unfortunate behaviors – and reputations – that plague them through the remainder of their careers. In the worst of situations, the new manager fails and has to go through something of a re-start. The stakes are high.

According to Hill, many new managers come into their roles feeling that they are now in a position of power and will have more ability to control their day-to-day work. What they fail to realize – at least initially – is that they are more so in a position of dependence, where they are reliant on their subordinates, manager, and peers for success. They need to manage not only the work, but also a complex web of relationships and egos. New managers face a number of challenges that all make the transition challenging for many.

 

With this context in mind, we share ten tips to help guide your transition as a new manager. While this list is by no means exhaustive, these suggestions should at least allow you to make a good start.

 

  1. Recognize that you are entering a new era. To borrow a phrase from executive leadership coach, Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame member and author Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.” In other words, that fact that you were likely a strong – or even exceptional – individual contributor does not mean you will necessarily be a good manager. You are now on a new plane, and you’re going to have a steep learning curve again. Moreover, the success criteria for in your new role are likely different – and more complex – than they were when you were an individual contributor. Embrace your new need to learn, and get clear as quickly as you can on how your managerial success will be measured.

 

  1. Be clear on the type of new manager situation in which you find yourself. Are you a line supervisor with 10 or more direct reports performing a critical day-to-day operational function? Or are you a staff manager with a just one or two direct reports, where you’re expected to be more of a player-coach? Each of these situations – while both first-line manager roles – are quite different in terms of the time spent on managing people, performing your own work, setting and executing an agenda, etc. Characterize your new situation and the accompanying work mix accordingly.

 

  1. Take time out to think about your prior managers. What did you like and not like about them? What did they do well and not so well? The situation is not unlike becoming a parent and thinking about what type of parent you want to be relative to how you were raised by your own parents. Taking some time to reflect on the type of manager – and leader – you want to be will at least provide some initial guidance to shape your day-to-day actions.

 

  1. Develop good habits with respect to the basics of management. Focus on mastering the core “people processes”: hiring, developing, coaching, evaluating, and (if necessary) firing. Don’t underestimate how important the seemingly mundane and administrative tasks sometimes are. Learn to be a good steward of your organization’s time, energy, money, and resources. Too many managers ignore or under-emphasize skill-building on these basics, or worse, develop bad habits that they’re never able to fully shake off.

 

  1. Understand that your every word and every action are being dissected. Coming back to Professor Hill, she notes that new managers:

 

  1. Up your communication game. Your communication skills become ever more important as you continue to progress into more senior roles. From your early management days onward, make sure you communicate consistently, clearly, and concisely. Recognize that communication is a “whole body” game and focus on your body language accordingly. Listen more than you speak. Explain your decisions and your rationale. Ensure your team is clear on how they fit into the company’s strategy. Along the way, be your authentic self and search out the communication style that works best for you.

 

  1. Understand that other people now depend on you for their livelihood and their professional fulfillment and happiness. This is a weighty obligation and one that should not be treated casually. Be clear that every person on your team is different. Get to know them as people. Know their family situations and what’s going on in their lives. Develop a viewpoint on their preferred working styles and how best to manage their activities and influence their behavior.  And if you were selected as manager over other former peers who also wanted the role, be especially diligent about managing their disappointment and likely bruised egos. Work hard to get them on side, so you reduce the risk of losing them.

 

  1. Focus on team performance as more than the sum of individual performance. Have a clear point of view on the type of culture you want to create. Establish a developmental environment, one where mistakes are treated as learning opportunities. Remind yourself that you don’t have to have all the answers. Look to your team as well, and show them that it’s ok to be imperfect and vulnerable. Be a guide, not an autocrat. Empower your team, don’t issue orders. Aim to be respected first and liked second. Regularly give and ask for coaching and feedback. Be wary of granting exceptions for one person unless you are willing to grant them for the full team.

 

  1. Don’t fall prey to the myths, such as that you won’t have to do any work anymore. If anything, the first-level manager role is one of the most challenging ones in many companies. You will face pressures from all sides. You are now dependent on others for your personal success. At the same time, you are at the bottom rung of the managerial ladder, and you’ll need to “toe the line” on strategic direction and operational execution guidance that comes from above, even if you don’t always agree with it. According to Professor Hill, many new managers perceive a loss in autonomy and “feel constrained, especially if they were accustomed to the relative independence of [being] a star performer. They are enmeshed in a web of relationships—not only with subordinates but also with bosses, peers, and others inside and outside the organization, all of whom make relentless and often conflicting demands on them. The resulting daily routine is pressured, hectic, and fragmented.” For more on the myths of management, check out Hill's 2007 HBR article.

 

  1. Become part of the firm leadership. Get rid of any “us / them” or victim’s mentality in your mindset. Now, more than before, you are a representative of the company. Take ownership for that responsibility. Be a change agent, not a change recipient or a caretaker of the status quo. If you disagree, learn how to constructively voice it. If your advice isn’t taken, accept it and move on. Regularly seek counsel from other, more experienced managers. You’ll invariably find that almost all of them will be more than happy to help guide your path and learning. Take full advantage of their willingness

 

In sum, becoming a new manager is both an exciting and nerve-wracking transition. Learn to appreciate both these aspects of the transition. Embrace your new obligations and acknowledge that you are back on the steep part of the learning curve. Focus on developing good habits. Be open to guidance and advice from all sides. Learn and adapt, learn and adapt, and learn and adapt.  You’ve got this!

 

NOTE: For more on the core skills you should hone before becoming a manager, read our post on the The 10 Essentials.

Skill development - at least with an underlying sense of intent - often takes a back seat to all of the day-to-day activities that consume time and energy. And while you should have a steady focus on skill development throughout your career, it’s especially important to work on your skills when you’re in the early days of your professional life, when you step into a bigger or different role, when you make (or want to make) a career change, and when you go to work for a new company. Each of these situations presents new challenges and forces you onto a new – and usually steeper – learning curve.

Types of skills

Psychologists have been publishing research on how people develop skills and on the different types of skills since at least the 1960s. They use a litany of different classification schemes to describe skills, some of which are easier to follow than others. From the lay perspective, they generally boil down to:

Some skills are domain-specific and others are domain-general or transferrable. For example, carpentry skills won’t make you a good accountant (and vice versa) but being a good motivator is likely to help you whether you’re a carpenter or an accountant. Soft skills are inherently more readily transferable. At PathWise, we’ve outlined a subset of them that we see as the 10 Essentials, traits like authenticity, conviction, and resilience. For more on these, check out this article.

The linkage between skill development and the job search process

While a formal focus on skill development goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages concept of guilds (professions) and apprenticeships, being able to describe your skills is of particular importance in this current era of keyword-focused Applicant Tracking Systems that are often used by employers to perform automated resume screening. If you don’t have the right skill-related keywords in your resume, you’re going to get screened out. ATSs expand employers’ ability to review candidates, but they have also had several unfortunate consequences:

  1. They inadvertently end up screening out solid candidates who don’t include the right skill-related keywords into their resume or CV. Don’t let this be you- make sure you appropriately incorporate your key skills into your resume.
  2. Candidates feel compelled to pack their resumes or CVs with long lists of keywords, leading to their invariably providing an over-stated representation of themselves and eroding their credibility as candidates. Again, don’t let this be you. Focus on your biggest strengths and the ones that align more significantly with the job(s) you’re seeking.
  3. A growing for-profit education industry has developed around issuing skill-related licenses or certifications. While some of these programs are reputable and well-developed, a good many of them aren’t, and employers are smart enough to see right through that. If you’re considering investing in a skill-building program or other form of continuing education, do your homework before signing up and investing your time and money.

Employers’ broader focus on capturing your skills

Employers are also increasingly focused on characterizing their employees’ skills in a more systematic fashion. Let’s face it: most companies have only a minimal (and likely skewed) understanding of their employees’ skills. Their HR departments are familiar only with employees’ education, the broad strokes of their work for prior employers, the different roles they have held in the company itself, and their performance in those roles (which is usually documented only through the lens of their managers – hence the inevitable bias). By capturing their skills in a more comprehensive fashion, companies can more readily identify candidates for open roles. They also remove some of the bias that invariably exists in evaluating current performance and suitability for other roles.

HR technology providers, such as Cornerstone, Coursera, Degreed, LinkedIn, and Udemy have jumped into this space. This has spawned a related race to come up with the best skills taxonomy that provide listings of skills and their relevance to different job types. (If you want to dive down the rabbit hole on skills taxonomies, check out this podcast from leading HR consultant Josh Bersin. He has even coined the term “Skillstech” to describe players in this space.)

How this focus can benefit your skill development

For you, one benefit of all this HR tech development is that it’s much easier to identify what HR professionals see as the key skills for different types of roles. These skill-job libraries provide you with a blueprint of sorts for where to focus your skill development work.

It’s also easier than ever for you to take advantage of the many options for learning that have blossomed over the past decade, including those offered by your current employer, which often go under-utilized, much to your HR colleagues’ dismay. Again, though, do your homework up-front, particularly when considering an external program, so that you invest your time and money wisely. Bear in mind as well that education is only one of the means by which you develop your skills, and it pales in comparison to what you learn experientially.

Different sources of skill development

When you get to the point of actually developing your skills, it’s helpful to bear in mind a framework known as the 4Es:

Your learning plan, or skill development plan, should include all four of these elements. (For a more in-depth description of the 4Es, check out our article on lifelong learning.)

The process of skill development

How you learn a new skill usually follows a step-wise process first described by various psychologists about 50 years ago and summarized nicely by Wikipedia:

  1. Unconscious incompetence, during which you don’t understand or know how to do something and don’t necessarily recognize the deficit. You may even deny the usefulness of the skill. It’s important here for you to recognize your incompetence (apologies if that sounds harsh), and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time you spend in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious incompetence. In this stage, you don’t understand or know how to do something, however, you recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious competence, during which you understand or know how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious competence, by which time you have had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. You may also be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

As a simple example, consider learning to shoot a basketball free throw. At first, you do whatever you think works best to get the ball into (or at least near) the hoop. You don’t yet have a grasp on what you’re doing well and not well. That’s unconscious incompetence. As you continue to practice, you start to become aware of your flaws but you’re not fully sure how to fix them. That’s conscious incompetence. You then ask a good free throw shooter or a coach to help you to improve your shot. You get some good tips and further practice, but it still requires a lot of thought each time you step up to the free-throw line. It may also require you to unlearn some of the bad habits you developed in your early attempts at learning to shoot free thrwos. That’s conscious competence. As you continue to practice, your muscle memory builds and the process becomes more natural.  That’s unconscious competence, and if you’re really, really lucky, it turns you into Steph Curry, the NBA’s career free throw percentage leader at over 90.7%.

While this sports-related example is easy to explain, this same process occurs in other types of skill development as well. Hence it’s important for you to surround yourself with people (managers, more experienced peers, mentors) who will help you make the transition from conscious incompetence to conscious competence.

Creating a skill development plan

If you’re committed to developing your skills, you need an actual plan, one that factors in the sills you need:

Focus on the skills themselves (the “what” and the “why”) and the way in which you are going to learn them (the “how”). Give yourself some deadlines (the “when”). As a few examples, you might set skill-related goals to:

Commit the time to developing this plan. Review it with your manager or HR partner, a mentor, or other trusted colleague. Refine it accordingly. View it like any other goal that requires a specific plan and timeline for building the skills on which you choose to focus. Continue to review this plan over time, as your work situation, longer-term aspirations, and company and market environment all evolve. Make skill development an ongoing focus, in line with the notion of being a lifelong learner. The continued focus will accelerate your progress in your early years and will invariably benefit you throughout your career.

Or, Five Things To Do For your Career Before Your Fifth Reunion

If there is a time of peak importance for career management, it’s when you’re in your late twenties. This likely seems counterintuitive, as your peak earning years (unless you are a professional athlete) are likely to be later in life. So why, then, are your late twenties so important? Here are just a handful of reasons:

For any one or more of these reasons, your mid-to-late twenties represent one of the most important inflection points in your career. It’s around this time when professional paths start to diverge. The stars emerge on a wholly different trajectory. The bold make bets, ones that may or may not pay off. Most people start to coast or go on auto-pilot, even if they don’t realize they’re doing so at the time. This isn’t to say that you should “double down” on work and turn into a workaholic. Rather, the point is that now is the time to take your first real – and informed – step back and consider what you want in your professional life, even if it’s just looking out over the next 3-5 years. In any case, don’t just be complacent. Again, you’ll regret it later.

To position yourself for the years ahead, we recommend that you take five actions now, before you get any further into your career. Think of these recommendations as five things you should do before your fifth reunion.

In sum, your mid-to-late twenties are the latest point at which you should begin to embody the entrepreneurial notion of the Start-Up of You. It’s where you really start to pursue your purpose. And it’s where you commit to running your own race, not running the race others want you to run or getting obsessed with how your race compares to others. Again, this isn’t about making work your life. It’s about making work what you want it to be. It’s about being purposeful about what you do every day and intentional about the direction you want to head. It’s about owning your career. Get to it.

Note: If you want to do a quick Career Health Check (something we strongly advocate doing annually), use our free Career Journey assessment and feel free to revisit it for comparison purposes in the years ahead.

If you’ve recently finished school and are joining the full-time work force, welcome! You’re going to be spending a good portion of your adult life in the working world, so commit to making a good start. From hiring and mentoring literally hundreds of new grads over the years, we’ve observed what distinguishes the best ones. Some of these young men and women have gone on to phenomenal careers: leading companies, bringing new innovations to life, and making a positive impact on the world. Very few things are as rewarding as watching someone you hired right out of school go on to such greatness.

Drawing on our observations, we’ve put together a list of suggestions for starting out on the right foot. Without further ado, here they are: 

1.  First, some expectation setting. There are a few things you should accept.

2.  Make the right first impression. Treat everyone with whom you work with respect. Say hello when you arrive each day and goodbye when you leave. Be friendly with and learn the names of the supporting cast around you who quietly do their jobs on your behalf, such as security, cleaners, and receptionists. Arrive at work and to meetings on time, if not a few minutes early. Do what you say you’ll do.  Be relentlessly responsive. Don’t ask for special treatment. Don’t traffic in gossip, and don’t speak negatively about your colleagues. In short, make it clear to everyone around you that you are a consummate professional.

3.  Work at fitting in... Learn the rules right away – read the employee handbook if there is one. (In most instances now, it will be online.) Figure out the company culture. Is it formal or informal? Hierarchical or flat? Conservative or liberal? Adapt to your boss’ style as well, particularly with respect to how he or she likes to communicate – in terms of method, frequency, level of detail, and even time of day. Take note of how people dress, and select your work clothing accordingly. Remember the adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If you have tattoos, or body piercings, or brightly colored hair, get a sense (ideally before you take the job) if they will be acceptable. Many workplaces are becoming much more open to varying looks but not all are. If your appearance is going to be an issue, you’ll either need to change it or consider finding another employer that better lets you be you. 

4.  …and also at standing out.  Develop at least an initial view of what you want your personal brand to be – what you want to be known for, and how you want to be seen.  Tap into your strengths. If you’re a master party planner, offer to organize a team outing or the company holiday party. If you’re into sports, join or set up a company team. Become the go-to person for something important, like producing a particular management report that’s regularly reviewed by a senior exec. Particularly in big companies that hire a large number of new grads, it’s the things you do to positively stand out that get you noticed by the higher-ups. These things often have the potential to become catalysts for putting you on an accelerated track. 

5.  Mind the (blurry) line between work and life. Decide how you want to position work in the context of your broader life. For some new grads, the early working years are a time where they’re willing to work extra hard and learn as much as they can, before they have other obligations to manage (like a family) that will require re-prioritizing work. Make sure your expectations for work are aligned with your manager’s and your employer’s more broadly, again ideally before you accept the job. If you don’t want to work long hours, for example, you probably shouldn’t take a job with an investment bank or consulting firm.

Inversely, be careful about how much of your outside life you bring into work. We’re all human: we all have a life outside of work, we all have challenges, and we all have bad days. Still, do your best to maintain a sense of professionalism when you’re at work. Some of your co-workers will certainly be willing to lend a sympathetic ear at times, but don’t treat them as your therapists. Don’t overplay your weekend exploits. We were all young and fun once (really), and we have all done some foolish things in our youth, but it’s better if you’re known at work more for your actual work than for your play.  And be mindful of how you use social media:  LinkedIn is a work-focused platform. Particularly if you list your current role in your headline, when you say something on LinkedIn, you are implicitly representing your employer. Most other social media platforms are more personally oriented. Keep them distinct. Above all, never put yourself or your employer in a bad light by doing or saying something unforgivable on social media.

6.  Build good habits. Make sure how you approach work aligns with your values. Don’t let your job turn you into someone you’re not. The late Clay Christensen is known for sharing a story that he wouldn’t work on Sundays because that was a day of faith for him. He indicated he was more than willing to put in extra hours on any other day to make up for what might otherwise need to be done on a Sunday, but Sundays were sacred for him – literally – and he never, ever compromised on this point.  Determine what’s sacred to you and stand firm to protect it. As well, build relationships (and your network) before you need them. It’s always easier to ask someone for something if they already know you and you’ve previously built “relationship capital” with them. Be humble and be a team player. When you make a mistake, admit it, and figure out what you should have done differently. Ask if you’re not sure. And don’t get so focused on getting ahead that you trample over your colleagues. From the beginning, and throughout your career, remember where you came from and who helped you get to where you are.

7.  Be open:

8.  Be patient. In all likelihood, you’re not going to experience a meteoric rise to become the next Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Mark Zuckerberg (sorry).  The vast majority of us have to put in the hours and the years.  Promotions aren’t automatic: they’re earned and they’re in limited supply. Get clear on what’s needed to advance and put in the work.

9.  Be fearless.  Bring your energy, your passion, your fresh perspective and your commitment. Exude confidence (without being seen as arrogant). Above all, get in the game. As Teddy Roosevelt said 100 years ago (with an upfront apology for his early 20th century male-centric references): “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

10.  Take a long-term view. Entrepreneur and investor Mark Ein puts it well: “It’s a small world and a long life. Treat people well, build relationships, develop your reputation and take a longer-term view about your decisions and actions...The deeper you go into your career, the more you[‘ll] appreciate that it isn’t just your recent history that matters but the full body of your life’s work that [determines] your opportunity set and your ability to most effectively pursue those opportunities. Build a broad network of strong, trusted relationships and be known as someone who people eagerly want to collaborate with…Along the way, avoid the short-term wins that may hinder your long-term goals and trust your internal compass to keep you on your path to your true north.”

Best of luck to you, and again, welcome to the working world!

Sources:

1.  https://www.briantracy.com/blog/business-success/career-advice-tips-for-recent-college-graduates/

2.  https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/19/6-successful-execs-offer-advice-to-help-you-start-your-career.html

3.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/danabrownlee/2019/05/10/the-top-ten-list-of-practical-career-advice-for-college-graduates/?sh=527873fe676b

4.  https://www.jobscan.co/blog/career-advice-for-grads/

5.  https://www.lifehack.org/articles/work/6-career-tips-for-new-graduates.html

6.  https://www.themuse.com/advice/12-pieces-of-advice-for-new-grads-that-everyone-should-take

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