Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Thinking through the most important habit of a highly successful career developer

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 9, 2015

I have been writing essays to this blog for what in a few months will be six years so even with the best of effort, my overall discussion has become diffused and spread out. My Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development is probably the most clearly organized and easily searched of my major directories here, of all of them but even so I offer a lot of material that is spread out over a fairly significant numbers of series, some of which are of at least near-book length (see that directory’s Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) So I decided to step back from the complexities of jobs and careers best practices to at least attempt to focus on a single high priority point of overall value in this one posting.

• A skill is what we can do, but it represents a potential that we might or might not actually consistently follow through upon; a habit is what we actually do and consistently.
• If I were asked what the single most important habit is of successful job seekers and career developers, how could I best answer that – by citing one single overarching best practices habit that can make the greatest difference throughout all of the steps and stages of career development and execution?

Effective job and career efforts call for a toolkit of skills and of habits in using them. If I were to make a list of top contestants for this number one position, at least a first cut at that would almost certainly have to include the likes of:

1. Good communications skills,
2. Effective and well considered networking skills,
3. Good interpersonal skills,
4. A willingness to take on new challenges in order to build new skills and gain hands-on experience,
5. A willingness to take on new challenges that have to be done and that are priorities for more senior managers and for the businesses you work for, and not just the ones that personally interest you,
6. A willingness to take calculated risks,
7. And a tolerance for working towards delayed rewards. In this, career development per se is always carried out on a longer timeframe than just meeting the here-and-now demands of the current job at hand, and delays between exemplary performance and rewards received for that can and do happen, and particularly when rewards are held off until a next performance review.

But I would focus on what might be considered an eighth point here, that underlies all of those others in making them work for you:

8. Planning.

Everyone who has worked for any period of time knows people who have significant skills and valuable professional experience but who never seem to advance in their careers – and even if they stay current and up to date in their hands-on skills. That can be intentional on their part as many prefer not to pursue management career paths and their best path forward would keep them in non-managerial career paths and jobs. But even there, this includes people who might have the skills and experience but they never rise in recognition for their particular abilities either. And then there are those who would be interested in taking that first supervisory position and more, but who seem to find themselves standing still while others advance around them.

Everyone who has worked for any period of time knows people who have advanced in their careers and into management and then into middle and senior management, as others who appear to know as much and who seem to work just as hard do not, and certainly as rapidly or as far.

How and why do some employees advance along their chosen career paths at what by the standards of their peers, would seem an accelerated pace? Planning:

• And this means planning when searching for and accepting jobs and when negotiating terms of employment for them. And it means planning when deciding when to stay with a current employer and when to move on as a best path forward in achieving desired career goals.
• This means communicating what these career developers can do and what they are doing but without coming across as bragging. And it means listening, and incorporating lessons learned from that into ongoing jobs and career plans.
• This means accepting task opportunities where these career developers can prove themselves and expand what they can do and what they are known for doing and for being able to do – and quickly and effectively.
• This means planning for, developing and using all of the skills and habits points in my above numbered list and more.

If you do not know where you want to go, any road will do – but just “any road” is unlikely to take you to your best possible jobs and career path and it is unlikely to help you advance along it either.

There is a basic rule of thumb for this type of planning that I have cited in this blog on occasion, but not for a while now. As an ongoing jobs and careers exercise recurringly and consistently ask yourself these basic, fundamental planning questions:

• Where do I want to be professionally in five years?
• And what can I do today that might help me take at least a small incremental step towards achieving that goal?

And keep refreshing you’re asking these questions and your answers to them. And keep track of how your thoughts about these questions and your answers to them change over time. What patterns do you see emerging as your goals change over time and as you realize a career path that you have made your own? And what do you want to work towards achieving next and why, and what can you do to help bring you at least one small step closer to realizing that goal now, today?

Think through and plan out the career path that you seek as the work life, that would be best for you and that would hold the most value to you. And plan your next steps toward it and along it every single day.

I am offering this as a supplemental posting to the third page to my Jobs and Careers Guide and you can find related material throughout that directory page and in this Guide’s Page 1, Page 2. And I add in that context that in the course of developing this Guide I have offered specific series that focus on many of the specific skills and habits noted above in my initial seven point list.

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