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Some Career Management Strategies!

Author : Dilip Saraf

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This Nat Geo image of a jellyfish shows a spider walking into it as its food.


Having now worked with thousands of clients in diverse areas of professional pursuits Ive come to realize that there are two classes of clients: The first that know how to take charge of their career and achieve their goals according to a plan they control, and the second, who let career happen to them. In one of my previous blogs I had analogized this latter class as belonging to the Jelly Fish species. Why? Because jelly fish is the only living organism that just floats around in a current of water and goes where the current takes it and eats what the current brings it. In contrast a shark as a predatory animal goes after what it wants, sometimes aggressively and without fear of what may befall it, once it pursues an objective.

Career Management requires getting out of the jellyfish mindset and taking charge of what you want your career to provide you as an outcome of your own planned efforts and deliberate actions, much like a shark. So, for those who want to take charge of their career and see themselves more as a shark and less of a jellyfish, the following strategies are worth some attention:

  1. Growth outlook: As one pursues their job in the field of their specialty it is a good idea to have a perspective on how their area is positioned in the overall scheme of job opportunities in the immediate and adjacent areas of their work. Career myopia can set in and lack of perspective can severely limit your growth prospects during the active life span of your career. I still have clients deeply engaged in computer mainframes for the past 25+ years wondering about their career growth. If they lose their current job it is unlikely that they will be able to find another comparable job in that field, forcing them to take early retirement.If you are wondering about any specific field or endeavor it is best to do some critical research in the area of your interest and see what opportunities are projected in the next five-10 years. The Department of Labor (DoL) publishes its Occupational Outlook Handbook in which it lists thousandsmillionsof job categories and how these jobs are going to emerge based on the economic and other factors. It is a good idea to review their projections and decide if the career path you have chosen provides the growth opportunities for you to grow.

    Some other avenues of what jobs will be more in demand in the next 5-10 years include taking a look at where venture capitalists (VCs) are investing today. VCs have been known to spot technology and business trends ahead of their mainstream application 5-10 years in advance, which provides you a glimpse of what is coming. Shifting your career in a direction aligned with that trend can not only protect your obsolescence, but also provide you early growth opportunities in a growing field (first-mover advantage).

  2. Going beyond the required: Most tasks in a given job are done to what is required in that task to be complete. Very few bother to delve into why these requirements came about in the first place and try to understand the job to be done (JTD). In pursuit of the JTD they often go above and beyond in what they deliver. It is these professionals that stand out as superstars in their area of work and find themselves always in demand, even during hard times.
  3. Knowing the real customer: This aspect of doing your job relates to what is already stated in #2, above. As customers requirements get filtered down the information chain they often get distorted or interpreted based on the person doing the interpretation. So, having a curious mind and understanding what the customer intended in the first place can provide you additional insights in how you deliver what is expected can make the difference between showing compliance and showing commitment. A committed response always keeps the customer as the end arbiter of their work.
  4. Seeking stretch assignments: In any organization there are tasks that are visible and the others that stay invisible because their lack of urgency. Lack of urgency does not make them any less important. For example, if a team is working on its typical assignment and struggles with it because of the poorly structured work environment or workflow everyone suffers and productivity takes a hit. It is never a priority because of urgent tasks that always preempt this important priority, which causes long-term effects that are deleterious to the team, the organization, and the company.Alongside your ongoing task assignment if you can volunteer for streamlining the work environment and make a business case for its implementation youll have something to brag about in the next version of your rsum. That bullet will now say, Identified a chronic infrastructure deficiency that dragged team productivity and delayed project releases. Proposed an initiative, made a business case, and then led it, seeking team volunteers and getting management approval. Within one year the new regime rocketed team productivity 35%, eliminating defective releases, and bringing all future releases on schedule, a first for the team!
  5. Dont assume, Ask: Most professionals believe that if they do good work in their assigned role annual raises and routine promotions are inevitable. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you take on a significant assignment that is important to your boss and the immediate chain of command, including the company make sure that you have an advance agreement with your boss stating that completing the assignment on time and on target should be rewarded with something commensurate with its impact on the company. Do not wait until after you completed and delivered the task; have a prior agreement with your boss and back it up in writing.How do you do this?

    Simple: Once your boss dishes out a significant assignment provide a plan of action and have a discussion about how its impact will benefit the group, business, and the company. Then ask for how that will translate into a commensurate benefit to you and to your career, including a higher grade, title, and salary. Once the boss agrees (since they want you to succeed they are not likely to deny you this benefit) go back to your computer and write an email cementing that agreement. If the boss does not deny that agreement it stands and even if the boss disappears you can hold the next boss accountable to it. You can also use this contrivance to your benefit stemming from #4, above.

  6. Always be market-ready: Most professionals develop complacency in their role, especially when things are going well for them. In todays highly competitive ethos things can shift overnight. Even if you are doing well in your role how your business is faring in the global market can suddenly change without any warning, putting your job in jeopardy. So, you must always keep your rsum and LinkedIn Profile up-to-date. Learn how to tell your stories of accomplishments in concise, compelling, and cogent stories that present you as the hero of each of your stories presented as rsum bullets. What you are selling now is not how you took orders and delivered what was ordered, but the well-organized stories of your leadership that show how effective a leader you are in what you do. See #4.
  7. Dont let your high IQ defeat you: It is well known that high IQ correlates directly (99% correlation) with the grades one secures in their academic work. However, the correlation of IQ and professional success is only about 20%. The remaining factors are Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Political Intelligence (PQ), Cultural Intelligence (CQ), and Contextual Intelligence (XQ). Each of these four Qs is a developed skill. Learn how to use your IQ to master these four other Qs and charge ahead with your career.
  8. Nurture a Growth Mindset: People in professional circles walk around with two types of mindsets: A Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset. A Growth Mindset is eternally curious and eager to learn new skills to conquer new vistas. Those with the Fixed Mindset, on the other hand, limit themselves only with what they know and what they are capable of doing without venturing out to grow further. If you want to learn more about this, read the book authored by Carol Dweck with this same title.
  9. Be resilient: Career setbacks are common, not because you came up short, but because you could not control what happened. Being resilient means not giving up when there are setbacks, but exploring ways to charge ahead with a new mindset to conquer new vistas. Career re-invention is one of the ways you can immunize yourself against sudden shifts that occur beyond your control. This is why knowing how to tell your leadership stories is critical in re-purposing your rsum in a new direction. For more on this see #4 and #6 and my blogs on Inductive Rsum.
  10. Mentoring: Finding yourself a mentor (not just one but many) and learning how to mentor others yearning to grow is the best antidote for career obsolescence. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your growing and helping others grow in what they do. Also, keeping up with reading books on topics that interest you can also provide the fuel to grow your mind and to become a more enlightened professional.

The above 10 strategies for taking charge of your career are something that we can all work on and internalize in our everyday life to prevent from being blindsided by sudden and unexpected forces beyond our control, yet keeping our careers in control.

Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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