With some experience behind you, now is the time to take stock of everything you've learned throughout your career, and use it to create your ideal working life.
When we first start out in our careers, we don't tend to settle for the first job we can get. We start somewhere and build from it, gaining respect and a greater salary along the way. Eventually, we earn enough to cover our expenses, hopefully with a little left over. The job becomes enough for now, it's familiar, routine, and comfortable. Perhaps other priorities in life have taken our focus. The danger is, as the necessity for us to move on dwindles, so does our motivation to grow — we settle. This is not true of everyone, but the comfort zone is the home to the vast majority of people in their mid-careers.
Before you know it, the next 20 years will have flown by, and you'll wonder why you spend so much time doing something you didn't really enjoy. The feeling of regret will quietly eat away at you, but you'll feel like your momentum is gone. The fact is, the longer you stay in your comfort zone, the harder it becomes to break out of it. So, honestly ask yourself — are you comfortable? And do you REALLY enjoy what you're doing?
In the last 20 years, the world of work has changed massively. The career ladder is virtually dead, and has been replaced by a career climbing frame. The rise of online networking and social media has changed the way people look for, and hire for, jobs. University degrees are being removed from many top companies' requirements for employees, instead they focus more heavily on skills, and proven results. Along with many more changes, the result is that the rules for managing a career successfully have changed.
The problem is, only a few people have adapted to these new rules, while the rest are getting left behind. So, as someone in their mid-career, following what everyone else is doing is a mistake. Instead, you should be looking at the behaviours of the top 10%. They know the importance of having a strong online reputation, they understand the need to avoid the competition in the published job market, and they know how to present themselves to employers — with or without a degree.
The majority of people fail to get on the front foot when managing their careers. They rely on other people, such as their employers, to do this for them. But employers don't do this anymore; the harsh reality is that if they can't afford you, they'll get rid of you. With the amount of competition out there, if you can be replaced at a lower cost — you will be. You need to outperform the competition, and build your own safety net, so you can successfully move between jobs when facing a career crisis.
To create this sense of security, you need to be out there, building the right connections, and becoming visible to hiring managers. The key to doing this is knowing how to market yourself. In essence, you need to be known for what you do. So, take time to design a great LinkedIn profile, and add quality connections every week. Consider setting up your own personal website, or visual brand identity. Know what you do best, and how it benefits employers. Those who do this will find so much more freedom, and security in their careers.
At this stage of your career, you will have a wealth of skills and experience that you've built over the years. The goal is to understand what you're best at, and which skills you most enjoy using in your working life. Once this is clear, you can take these strengths and preferences and do one of two things. Firstly, you can re-craft your current role to involve more tasks that play to your strengths, and fewer that work against you. Secondly, you can apply these strengths to an area that interests you more than your current field.
When your role aligns with your strengths and preferences, you'll naturally be more engaged, more productive, and more valuable to employers. This is central to maximising your potential, both in terms of day to day performance and the level of salary you can command. So, contrary to what you may have been told, focus on your strengths — not your weaknesses. Take care in the areas of your job you know are weak, but don't spend too much time building them up at the expense of using, and refining, your greatest strengths. Do what you do best!
Once you've identified your greatest strengths, and the area of work you'll enjoy applying them, you need to know how to track down and land the jobs that match. To do this, you need to know how to market yourself; how to stand out from the competition. The bad news is, we haven't been taught how to do this at school, university, or by in-company career development programmes. The good news is, because most people don't know these strategies, there is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and capitalise on the situation, before everyone starts to catch up.
If you're lucky enough to know someone who can mentor you, reach out to them and pick their brains — learn what they've done right, and how you can use these techniques for your own career. It's important to do your own research, too. This will take some time, but the payoff will be worth it. You could save 2 years spent in a job you don't enjoy by learning how the job market works, and how to gain control over your next career move.
Our blended online programme was designed to support you in creating your ideal working life. In 90 days, you'll learn the new rules and develop a powerful career strategy to land a job that suits you who are, and what you're best at.