Download our latest whitepaper Developing Emotional Capital: The advanced evolution of emotional intelligence for leaders

In this series of articles, my colleague Bart-Jan van der Linde (Principal Consultant) and I explore three new behaviours and beliefs; relationship focus, going the extra mile and love of learning. We look at how these work in practice when applying them to, what our colleagues in City & Guilds Group believe to be, the three key “employment phases”:

  1. Getting into your first job
  2. Being successful and fulfilled on the job
  3. Progressing on to the next job.

We have covered how to get into your first job and how to be successful on the job so now we will focus on how to progress on to a new job or life phase.

Part Three: Progressing on to the job or life phase

What does this mean for employees?

Motivations for seeking career progression are wide-ranging; to learn new skills, develop yourself, embark upon a new challenge or improve your financial situation. However, managers are reluctant to have future-focussed conversations with their staff. If managers raise expectations and their staff realise they are not being fulfilled at work, the belief is they are more likely to think about leaving. However, managers should not shy away from these conversations. Instead, initiating open and honest conversations are more likely to result in managers being able to fulfil their staff resulting in keeping valued employees.

A tool we’ve used at The Oxford Group to train thousands of people is the 5 Conversations ‘Future Focus Wheel’. This is made up of ten dimensions that typically matter to people at work. Interestingly, only two dimensions (financial reward and promotion) are what people usually consider when they think about change at work – ‘how can I get a pay rise and how can I get promoted?’ Of course, there is nothing wrong with that but the wheel offers at least eight other areas that are likely to matter to you at work.

Spend some time thinking about how much these areas currently matter to you or how much of this dimension currently exists in your job right now. Think about yourself in two or three years’ time and decipher which areas need improving. It could be autonomy, purpose or learning. This exercise will open your mind to other possibilities, things that matter at work that you hadn’t thought about before. You may even look to self-employment, transitioning to part-timework, secondments, sabbaticals or working on a purely volunteering basis.

Even if your manager realises they can’t fulfil your needs, it is much better to have an adult conversation about this, enabling you both to create a plan for a smooth transition period. Alongside the Future Focus Wheel, apply these three behaviours below to ensure a successful career move…

Relationship focus:

From our experience, when people are in full-time employment, they stop networking. They become so busy that they forget how important it is. But this is the time where you are at the centre of all your contacts, with the added advantage of having a job. You never know what you can give to someone else or what someone else can give to you. This may not necessarily be employment but it could be new ideas, openings or further connections. With the increase of automation, human connections and people skills are more precious than ever. Improve your network through personal interactions, not by increasing the numbers on your LinkedIn profile with people you’ve never met. Keep using the tools we discussed in Part Two, to keep constructing open and honest conversations.

Building a network is like building air miles. You never know where you’re going to use them but it’s fantastic to have them.

When the possibility of not having a job emerges, you then realise how important networking is! Networking can seem an uncomfortable prospect if you have neglected it for some time, so always make an effort to – you never know when your network will be of use. Whatever area you work in, there are always local professional organisations putting on events for this very purpose. Be proactive and build this behaviour into your working life.

Going the extra mile:

Employers value individuals who add value to others and this is particularly important to take advantage of early on in your career. When you have the time to do it, volunteering work can supplement your CV perfectly. The more senior you are, the less time you think you have, so the idea of ‘giving back’ is pushed back to after retirement. As a more experienced leader, offering time to a charity or projects demonstrates an invaluable sense of altruism. A colleague of ours, Maggie Matthews, has consistently volunteered throughout her working life. The knowledge she’s gained through these experiences make her even more well-rounded than she already is.

Be open to putting yourself forward for new experiences; you will never know what it will lead to. In addition to her demanding day job, a colleague of ours also tutors at the Open University. She does it in her own time for her own enjoyment and to give something back to the community. Things like this aren’t mandatory, but she has chosen to build this into her career and it is giving something valuable to her and those around her.

Love of learning:

In Part Two, we discussed the 70:20:10 principle, focussing on learning on the job. This time, we are focussing on the 20% (coaching from your line manager) and the 10% (formal courses). Although it is the 70% that is often overlooked and prioritised by training companies, access to the 20% and 10% is vitally important. Firstly, make sure you are informed about all the formal training and learning opportunities you have access to and participate in as much as you can.

Secondly, seek coaching from your manager and/or mentoring from more senior people in your organisation. If there isn’t a formal mentoring scheme in place, discuss with your manager several potential mentors to approach informally. Mentoring schemes usually span the course of 12 months, containing only two or three conversations. Ask questions such as ‘what advice would you give me to build my career?’ or ‘if you were me, what would you do?’. This advice could prove invaluable.

For senior managers, there is a danger in thinking you don’t need to learn, forgetting that learning is a lifelong activity. The saying ’20 years’ experience isn’t 20 years’ experience if you have one years’ experience 20 times’ applies here. Step outside your comfort zone to make every year a year of learning something new, consistently propelling your learning journey in the right direction.

What does this mean for employers?

The old-fashioned approach of joining a company, working for the next 35 years whilst slowly climbing the corporate ladder until retirement is one dimensional and uncommon today. It is now vital for employers to be flexible and creative when thinking about how people can contribute to their organisation. Think to yourself, ‘are there opportunities where if we gave employees study leave, sabbaticals or the freedom to work part-time we would keep them rather than lose them and benefit from the experience they would gain?’

Ask yourself other questions about how to integrate different types of employment models. Increasingly today, there is a whole host of people who don’t want to be employees – is there a model where you can work with self-employed people? If there is already a model involving offshoring or outsourcing, can you integrate these people into your organisation so they feel engaged and can contribute effectively, rather than feeling like second class citizens?

A major retailer’s back-office operations in India isn’t regarded as part of the organisation by those in the UK. For western companies with operations in Asia, there’s a real failure to engage with employees in these regions, creating tension between the corporate centre in the western world and outposts elsewhere. The challenge is to create an organisation that fulfils of all their talents’ potential – not just those in full-time contracts.

B&Q have an admirable longstanding policy to recruit more experienced, ex-trades workers; plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. For example, if a 65-year-old electrician doesn’t want to retire fully, but would like some extra money and would enjoy imparting his accumulated knowledge onto customers, they would love coming into work! B&Q have found a flexible and creative policy which benefits everyone involved. Can you do the same?

For employees – take some time to think about what aspects of your job you would most like to improve but also keep in the future. Use these three behaviours to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

For employers – think about new, creative policies and initiatives to benefit all of your employees. Build this into your Employee Value Proposition and publicise it effectively.