Whatever your age or level of experience, it’s inevitable that at some stage in your life you’ll question where your career is heading.
Professor Julia Richardson from Curtin's School of Management and Marketing believes there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the co-author of the guidebook, An Intelligent Career: Taking Ownership of Your Work and Your Life, proposes a more personalised approach.
She suggests you develop your own strategies centred around three ‘career knowings’: knowing WHY (your motivation), knowing HOW (your skills and competencies) and knowing WHO (your personal and professional networks).
It may seem trivial to determine your motivation to work, but Richardson, who has researched career management strategies for the past 18 years, believes it’s the first step in ensuring the longevity of your career.
Using data sourced from a study of 181 employed graduates from a Dutch university, Richardson and her colleagues determined that employees with higher levels of ambition were more likely to be proactive at work and take charge of their work situations, which in turn increased their career satisfaction more than those with lower levels of ambition.
“Think about what motivates you. Is it money? Objective success? Status? Or do you not care about those things at all? Do you want to work with animals or care for the elderly? Are you committed to technological innovation and working with machines?”
Richardson believes there’s no right or wrong choice: the main thing is to make sure your career path aligns with your motivation. If it doesn’t, she suggests it may be worth making a career change. Just remember to be realistic about your options.
“If you’re raising three kids, then your motivation is likely to have money to ‘put bread on the table’ or to have a sense of job security. But if your current paid work isn’t inspiring you, bear in mind that you may be motivated by non-work activities such as volunteering,” Richardson says.
Richardson says that determining the skills and competencies you need to achieve your career goals now and in the future is essential to creating a sustainable career and future-proofing it in the changing global marketplace.
But it isn’t just hard skills you should think about: it’s soft skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, conducting independent research, time management and a plethora of other skills that can be transferred to a range of jobs.
“If you’re stuck, keep an eye out for job advertisements in your industry and look at the job descriptions. Look at the competencies they require. If they all want teamwork, leadership and communication skills, then you better make sure you have them,” Richardson says.
“In addition to that, you need to look at where your industry is going. What are the trends?”
If you’re missing skills, Richardson believes you should consider training or undertaking further study, and tailoring that study around what’s required within that field or profession. For example, some fields may require a graduate diploma or certificate from a formal institution, while others could accept training, such as workshops and week-long courses, through a professional association.
According to Richardson, it’s not just about what you know, but also who you know. She raises the point that it’s essential to have a diverse personal and professional network beyond your immediate family, friends and current work colleagues.
She suggests joining industry clubs, institutions or societies, or going to conferences, to expand professional networks both within and outside your industry.
She also recommends local sports clubs, theatre groups or not-for-profit charities as places to find potential mentors, career advisors or future colleagues.
How do I change career?
Richardson acknowledges that career change can be frightening. How do you ensure it’s as smooth a transition as possible?
Richardson suggests you follow the concept of the ‘adjacent possible’ – a term originating from theoretical biology that has been adopted by career counsellors to refer to a new way of thinking about how to navigate the career landscape.
“Want to get from Point A to Point D? Don’t make a quantum change: gradually progress from Point A to B to C to D,” Richardson explains.
“Say you’re in healthcare and want to get into mining. A way to get your foot in the door is to look for healthcare opportunities in the mining industry or related industries and take it from there.
“Career development is incremental. We often focus on big opportunities, but we tend to forget that small opportunities can lead to big opportunities later on.”
If you’re planning your next career move, take the next step with a postgrad business degree at Curtin.