We live and work in a world of constant change. Change is continual and the nature of change is changing. Years ago, stability used to be the driver of a successful business – prices only changed slightly, people stayed in the same jobs for their entire career…life was good! Now, rapid technology change, global competition and changes in socio-demographic trends require credit unions to be ready for constant fast-paced change. I asked myself recently how I can be ready for and adapt to change. The connection I made is that I need to focus on managing my career in order to lead change within SaskCentral and the CU system. Here are 7 tips and tricks that I have learned on career development:
- Own it – your career is just that: YOUR career. Career development should be employee-owned, manager facilitated and organization sponsored. Take control of your own career. Your manager should be there to support and challenge you and ask rather than tell you what to do.
- You can never have too many self-assessments – In order to manage your career, you must understand your strengths, values, skills and weaknesses. This is about reflection of who you are and what you like to do. One easy assessment tool is to select your seven top values in your career. A few of my top values are working in a team environment, feeling challenged intellectually and having flexibility and time freedom. What are your top values? List them in order of importance. Then identify those values that are aligned with your current work situation. If one or more of your values are not being met, ask yourself, what steps can you take to move towards alignment? It is important to look for alignment between your top values and your vision of career success. There are many self-assessment tools available, such as DiSC Profile or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and also many free tools online that you can use.
- Validate your self-assessments – Once you have completed the self-assessments, it is important to validate those assessments. The key here is to ask your co-workers, manager, friends and family – people who know and work with you – to share feedback on the strengths, values, skills and weaknesses you have come up with. Do they agree with the strengths, values, skills and weaknesses you have identified? Ask them to identify additional areas you can focus on or additional strengths and weaknesses you might not have thought of.
- Establish a career vision and set goals – I recently attended a career development workshop where the facilitator shared how to create a career vision and set goals to achieve the vision. The facilitator shared an interesting perspective on how to establish short and long term goals. She believed that career management is less about the next position you want to attain and more about building skills and experience. Often, you may focus on achieving a certain role or position within a company, rather than focusing on the skills and experience you need to have a successful career. Think of it this way – if your goal is to become the next CEO or general manager at your credit union, but the CEO position is filled with a younger leader who will likely be in that role for 10 or 15 years, you are likely to be disappointed because your chances of getting that position are low. The facilitator also suggested that we work on 2-3 week timeframes when setting short term goals. This allows the goals to be smaller and more manageable. So establish a career vision by determining what career success would mean for you. Then use short timeframes to achieve your career success.
- Be prepared to answer the question “Tell me about yourself” – This is a classic interview question but is one that you should be ready to answer in all situations. The key is that rather than focusing on the position you have or where you have worked, you should come up with a 30 second elevator pitch that addresses your skills, attributes and values. Here is an excerpt of what I have come up with to answer the question: “I am confident individual, role model and coach who strives for excellent performance and challenges my team to meet our department and corporate goals. I embrace accountability and openness to creative ideas so that I can encourage problem solving and work towards a culture of continuous improvement.” As you can see, this doesn’t state that I am a senior analyst at SaskCentral. Instead, it focuses on the skills and values of what I do in my role as a senior analyst.
- Challenge yourself – Development of skills doesn’t occur within your comfort zone. Once you have identified the skills you would like to develop to achieve career success, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone in order to develop those skills.
- Build your network – This is about getting to know people with different skills and viewpoints in order to expand your own skills and experience. Try to expand your network further than like-minded people – look for people whose strengths are your weaknesses. When you are building your network, it is important to have three types of people as part of your network: 1) Mentor, 2) Good listener and 3) Devil’s advocate. Your network should include people with different perspectives and individuals that can help with various aspects of your career.
Our generation (Generation X and Y) generally looks for variety and we are likely change jobs more frequently than the Baby Boomers. Remember that your career will be a winding path, not a linear one. I will leave you with one last point to kick start planning your own winding career path. Ask yourself what do you do that makes you feel most successful and fulfilled in your career? What activities were you involved when you felt most successful or fulfilled? Who were you working with? What skills were you using? If you can answer these questions, you will be able to start to understand what you will define as career success.
Ashley Kennedy, CPA, CA
Senior Analyst, Accounting & Reporting, SaskCentral