Unconventional Tips for Your Career Development


At this time of year, many of us are spending time deliberately reflecting. You might be looking at the year that’s just passed and wondering if this year is the time to make a Big Career Move or even a small career move. To that end, below are just some things I’ve found useful.

The reason I call these “unconventional” is that the tips below are meant to be the start of a conversation – a way to open up thinking and discussion. But often career advice puts the career advisor in the “expert” role: someone with the answers. But in many cases, that dynamic doesn’t work. Why? You are the expert on your own career – you probably have the capacity for all the answers you’ll ever need, and so career ‘advice’ should be very heavily focused on listening, asking questions, reframing, challenging and supporting. And if it’s really good, it will feel like you are getting practical breakthroughs and self-generated energy to keep pursuing your own career development in a way that seriously matters to you. Career development done well doesn’t just brighten up a day or a week. It fires a person’s will to succeed in whatever they choose for years.

But I digress…

You may not think any of these are unconventional – that’s good news! You might be using many of these already. *Please add more if you can think of others.*

Have another look at your resume

Discover the patterns in your skills, experience and achievements. In many resumes I’ve seen there are actually several careers just waiting to be released e.g. if you’ve been in sales, you would have also done a lot of work in training…what does a training resume look like?

Doing this could reveal that you are nowhere near as “trapped” as you think and could inspire you to take a leap into further training and development. Even better, do this with another trusted person if you can – all of us (me included!) forget or miss things in their own experience that should be brought to light in their resume (or are best forgotten!)

What is your career purpose?

This is complex and worth plenty of thought. What is it that you really want to do in your career? Does it fire you up? If it doesn’t you’re not alone, but you’ve got work to do. There’s no perfect career or job or manager or organisation. Stop looking!

But almost always there is a purpose for your career that is better aligned to you.

Don’t settle for something that isn’t right.  You might be in marketing and your career goal could be to be a better marketer. Why? What is it about marketing that really drives you? What is the most interesting, compelling thing you do in marketing that keeps you back at work and gives you a sense of control and satisfaction? Is it writing really, really good copy? Is it choosing just the right images and colours to reinforce your message? Is it the opportunity to talk and listen to lots of people?

Now that you have a good handle on what you really enjoy doing, what does that mean for you and your career purpose?

Just for a moment, forget your sector or profession 

Some professions have such a strong culture that once you’re in it’s hard to see yourself as anything other than a _________.

Of course you’re not just a _________. You’re lots of things, but many of us can feel that we need a box. Some people also enjoy boxing up others too. I had a relative once bail me up at a family gathering with the opening question “now what box can I put you in son?” I won’t say how I responded….(but we are still friends).

So if you can get past all the detritus, consider instead the level of complexity of work that you have enjoyed most in your career to date and what have you found the least enjoyable. By complexity I’m talking – very roughly – about the extent to which your work is affected by variables and the timespan that you expect to complete it. Some of us enjoy completing set tasks with little room to manoeuvre, others like creating work from scratch. Complexity is an essential nature of your work – an analogous level of complexity can invariably be found across a lot of different industries. For example, you might like the challenge of designing and implementing a marketing plan for 2015/16. Along with some skill development, the same cognitive ability you used doing that could be used to design a learning and development plan, or a recruitment plan….And of course if you understand the level of complexity that you are comfortable with and enjoy, you can then seek opportunities for more of the same.