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Is it time to do something new?

Jan 03, 2019

It’s that time of year again when we have to ask the dreaded question: what do you want to achieve in 2019?

First stop: the career audit

The career audit is always the first thing to be examined. For most, our careers define a big part of who we are, and the sense of belonging and purpose that a job gives us is important. Even more importantly, beyond the job, is how we feel we’re faring against our overall career plans. Are we in the place we expected to be at this point in our careers? Have we done everything we wanted to over the past year?

Even for those who have had a good career year, the question will always be ‘what’s next?’

Flip your assumptions around

For most people, the immediate measures of career success fall within the remit of promotions or a salary rise. What would happen if you graded your career progression in a different way?

Start by looking at your end goal. If, for example, you want to get to a certain position of seniority, you need to tick off all the boxes required to hold it. A few really obvious areas might include:

  • Experience in different functions
  • Experience globally
  • Experience working in different organisational types.

Forget about a salary hike: how are you ever going to get there if you don’t start ticking these boxes off?

Broaden out: the T of leadership

Look to your CFO or CEO. Apart from pointing to their key strengths as a leader, it is unlikely that you can identify one key area of ‘expertise’. Likely they are broadly experienced and know a lot about, well, everything.

In fact, many people would say that the mark of a great leader is the ability to lead outcomes through people across functions, rather than being a leader in one field of expertise.

If you’re seeking to reach the C-suite, you need to think seriously about generalising, and gaining non-finance expertise.

Create a plan that genuinely challenges you

You can’t develop these skills over night. You need to consciously aim your current role, and ones beyond it, to give you experience and exposure to functional areas and leadership challenges you haven’t faced yet.

Key areas you could consider branching out into, or gaining project expertise in, include: MIS/IT, BI/analytics, supply chain and demand planning, commercial management (bids and contracts), risk management, corporate governance and internal audit.

Above all, don’t set yourself material goals that won’t help your career in the long term. Really think about the opportunities for you to develop and grow as an emerging leader this year. Don’t judge your achievements on salary alone – think about what you’ve gained so far and what you can gain next year through involvements in projects, initiatives or potentially looking at new roles.

Ed Heffernan is a Managing Partner at Barden.