An Intelligent Career Model for the 21st Century – part three – by James Parsons

Last time I talked about passion. If you are genuinely passionate about what you do on a daily basis, that’s all well and good. Become the expert, the go-to person and be prepared to consider other ways of delivering your expertise should your employer decide to strategically, ahem, refocus. So forget about passion.

And while you’re at it, forget about goals too.

The best advice we can give people is to think about the job after the next one. Job seeking, like networking, is not something one does only when necessary but should be a continuing process. This makes perfect sense if you do the maths: chances are that the best job for you won’t become available at precisely the time you declare yourself ready.

Therefore, getting a job is part of a system, not a goal.

Systems-based career planning means thinking about yourself, your market, your competitive edge, being clear about your performance factors and how you can improve your quality of output vs. the person next to you.

If you’re in technology, healthcare or engineering, it might mean thinking more like an ambassador of your firm than an MD or employee, increasing your visibility at forums designed to develop next level thinking. If you’re in a sales role, your career management system should include building awareness of your customers’ preferences and thinking styles as a major component of increasing your numbers.

For everyone, it usually means learning more about yourself – your life purpose, values, environments that will suit you and where you will best FIT next. Again, guided self-analysis to figure out your motivated skills will help determine whether you want to stay a producer or become a manager (and potentially, a cost).

But do not expect your employer to do it for you. They are interested in keeping you doing what you are doing, thank you very much, especially if you are earning them money or freeing them from what stuff no-one else can or wants to do.

As a search firm, we’ve always had our antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as we can tell, the people who use systems do better.

The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways. For example, as we moved into the second decade of the new millennium it was clear the writing was on the wall for many conventional business models – think big box retailing, think Blockbuster, think big chunks of wholesale finance, music or how we buy consumer technology. The clever ones made a choice and put systems into place to transfer themselves to safer ground. Some picked up a new sector, build new relationships and figure out their transferability quickly, some offered to cover a new market or geography and built a defensible franchise and others retrained.

Within 15 years, so much has changed yet so much hasn’t. Structural upheaval in business is almost the only certainty – most of us will run the risk of becoming functionally obsolescent at least once in our careers. Putting systems in place to manage your career by taking regular time out to appraise where the ship you’re on is headed is increasingly critical.

If you’re out there looking to make your first break into something new, then systems thinking is also essential. The whole deal – clarifying who you are and what you want, targeting employers, writing CVs, dealing with recruiters, networking for information and contacts, interviewing, negotiating and closing – all requires a system as none of these components of a successful job search strategy happens in isolation. If you think through this list with your own situation in mind, you will quickly see how the last item is linked in a dependent chain all the way back to the first.

Finally, the old adage about learning through failure is as true as ever. It’s a good place to be because failure is where success likes to hide from plain sight. Everything you want out of life is in that huge, bubbling vat of failure. The trick is to get the good stuff out.

Next time, I’ll start introducing the model. Until then, enjoy the rest of the summer.


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