The narrative I heard about careers when I started university was intense; the millennial experience would be different. We would be changing jobs, companies, and careers with rapidity and we would be pioneers in this new era of navigating and managing the protean career. Little of this was portrayed as anything less than a struggle requiring resilience, flexibility, and a lifelong commitment to learning. Has any generation put themselves through as much education as the millennials have? According to Weinbaum et al. (2020) the answer in Ireland is no. However, we are not the first to pioneer frequent career transitions. Vincent Van Gogh was a language teacher, missionary, and art dealer before becoming the famous artist we know of today. I take comfort in the fact that I may yet be extraordinary.
Career transitions are exciting opportunities to explore new parts of our identities, write new stories, invest in interests, find our tribes, or go on a journey to a place we always expected or never imagined we could go. I’ve provided some ideas below on what you need to consider to move up or move on.
Moving Up: Seeking senior leadership positions
Develop a clear career story and objective with clarity on your values, strengths, and personality. This article ‘Could Your Personality Derail Your Career?’ talks about the dark sides of our personality and how we can identify and manage these traits when our reputations are on the line.
Be open to lateral moves, project work, and opportunities to broaden your experience and develop integrated business competence. Ask your manager and HR team for opportunities.
Gain strategic experience through board memberships. Not for profit, community, volunteer, sports organisations etc. often recruit for board members. This is a great way to add exposure to an industry you’re passionate about, gain strategic decision making experience, and share your expertise with a new network. Boardmatch.ie is one resource you can use to find opportunities to work on a board.
Moving On: Seeking to start your own business or move to consultancy
Use your expertise as your USP, join or form a consulting group. What do companies need consultants for? What skill do you offer? Who is your ideal client and what can you do for them? Read this 10-step guide to starting your own business.
Start a side business and take an entrepreneurial mindset. Find someone who has done something similar, take a look at how many businesses they have started before finding one that has succeeded for them. Reach out and find out about their journey to success.
Find Mentors, Sponsors and Advisors
Regardless of where you are at in your career, seeking internal mentors at a higher or cross-functional level of the organisation can help you navigate promotion opportunities. The Muse argues for sponsors, not just mentors, but it’s worth considering both depending on your position in the company and who you already have in your network. I also like the circle of advisors analogy. A great way to practise taking on new perspectives is to ask your circle of advisors (in your head) what they would do. You may need to draw on your networks to find these people and it will take a bit of work to learn their behaviours and perspectives and incorporate them into your way of thinking and problem solving.
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