New mindset for the millennium

YOU are the CEO of your own career. It’s a popular saying in these days of downsizing and outsourcing. But what does being the CEO of You Pty Ltd actually require and why is it necessary to chart your own course?

Jobs are disappearing. But there is still work to be done.

A paradox? Not necessarily – it all depends on how you view the world of work and your place in it. Taking a CEO’s approach to your career allows you to thrive in this age of instability and flexibility.

The landscape in which talent is employed is changing fast. Our companies no longer guarantee job security - they have replaced this with guarantees of employability, learning and challenging work. Global pressures are forcing companies to be more flexible and agile, not just to stay competitive, but in order to survive. They need a workforce that can do what has to be done, fast.

Workforce is now defined as not just the full-time employees, but also includes a pool of specialist contractors, external agencies and a raft of flexible, contingent workers. (Whoever can get the work done to the right standard and price.)

The traditional concept of jobs and fixed job descriptions is somewhat limiting to organisations that would rather pull together project teams that comprise the best people available to get the work done. Trying to achieve this in a hierarchical environment with layers of management is inefficient.

Instead, leading companies look for people who are flexible, who don’t need a job title or description to hang their identity on, who thrive on change and derive immense job satisfaction from challenging work. Loyalty and diligence are nice to have, but they are no longer prime characteristics of the star employee.

The people who really succeed in this type of environment are the ones who have a different sort of mentality. They know they world doesn’t owe them a living – or, at least, if it does, they are out there collecting it. Organisations want people who think and manage themselves like independent businesspeople. They have a CEO mentality when it comes to their career.

What does this mean, in practice? Consider the role of a CEO in any company. What are they there do to? They have ultimate responsibility for the performance of the company. They determine direction, the purpose and overall strategies. They must always be aware of the environment they operate in. And, successful CEOs see their role as more than “just a job”. They are passionate about their company and intertwined with it. They bring to the role a large part of themselves, which is ultimately reflected in the culture, products and services that the company offers.

People who take charge of their careers know that the buck stops with them. Successful people have a mentality of self-responsibility.

Career CEOs don’t blame the company, their co-workers or the economy if they lose their job or miss out on a promotion – they learn from the experience.

A sense of purpose and future direction is essential for anyone who strives for career success. Just as a yacht in a storm-tossed ocean needs a destination, so too do you need to know what you want to achieve. Without a mission, you are at the mercy of the elements. In this case, the ever-changing ocean is the employment market.

Opportunities will arise constantly. For example, an interstate transfer, or the chance to work with a special project team. Only with a clear sense of purpose will you know whether this is right for you. This is not to say that you should map out every step of your career path for the next five years. Rather, have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and be aware of opportunities around you that will get you there. Use the wind shifts and currents to your advantage.

A good CEO is always aware of the forces that shape the industry in which he or she operates. This includes competitors: who or what else can deliver the services that you are offering? What is your differentiating factor? It pays to be aware of these factors. Consider stores that offer film developing. A major competitor emerging on the scene is the combination of digital camera and PC, which threatens to put the traditional film developing stores out of business, unless they can leverage on their strengths. What are the developments in your industry? And how can you position yourself to take advantage of them.

Knowing your customer is advice which is equally as relevant to you in your career.

Who are your customers? If you are self-employed, the answer is fairly obvious. If you work full time for an organisation, think outside the box. Yes, you may serve external customers. But who else do you deliver results for? Your boss, other departments, even your own staff. By having a customer focus, you can create opportunities for yourself that previously may not have existed.

Great CEOs bring passion to whatever they do. They play a role that allows them to tap into their deep interests and values. In doing so, they find the extra energy and creativity that is an essential requirement to thrive in an ever-changing world. Similarly, by doing work that is aligned with your own passions, your career becomes more than a job. It becomes a reflection of who you are and what you stand for. Successful people know what drives them (believe it or not, money is usually not the primary factor) and integrate that into their work. The result is better and they have more fun in the process than someone for whom work is just a job.

Put yourself in the position of CEO of your own career. What business are you in? Who are your customers? What is your purpose? And what is your passion?

Next Week:

Four foundations for career success.

l Digby Scott is the Principal Consultant of The Catalyst Group, a career and executive coaching consultancy. Contact him at digby@the

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