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Have You Stayed Too Long in Your Current Role? And Other Critical Career Planning Issues
In my blog Career Planning: Aren’t You Worth the Investment? I discussed why it’s critical to treat your career as an investment and how to examine your current job fit. Now, let’s move from “who you are” to “where you are,” exploring such issues as:
- Have you given your current role too little or too much time?
- Is the culture a good fit or a tight squeeze for you?
- What does your personal “brand” stand for?
What is your career stage?
Every role requires a level of mastery. The scope and scale associated with the role defines its complexity which, in turn, impacts the time to reach role mastery. For example, a sales management role responsible for a single industry segment in a single geography with no direct reports and a sales target of $2m is easier to get your arms around than a role with accountability across six industry segments and eight geographies with eight direct reports and sales targets of $16m.
Role mastery is similar to the four stages of adult learning: Stage 1 unconscious incompetence; Stage 2 conscious incompetence; Stage 3 conscious competence; and Stage 4 unconscious competence. By Stage 3, you’ve achieved mastery. By Stage 4, you’re probably burned out and no longer enjoying the work.
Some people underestimate the time it takes to reach a level of role mastery while others stay far too long in their roles. There are significant implications for your personal brand either way.
- Leave before mastering a role … and you will be viewed as solid and competent but not a genuinely robust performer who exceeds expectations.
- Stay too long in a role … and you may come “off the boil” in a performance context and move from role mastery to being a sub performer. If you can do the role with your eyes closed, you are no longer challenged. This can lead to loss of interest and enjoyment, which in turn has a negative impact on performance.
Make an honest assessment of your current role and stage – perhaps engage a trusted mentor, coach, or colleague to help you – and create a career plan based upon this stage. Do you need to learn more in your current role, or is it time to move on to greater responsibilities and challenges?
Is the culture of your organisation a good fit?
Your long-term satisfaction in the organisation requires that its culture and values align to your own. Otherwise, working will become very uncomfortable, as though you were rubbing against sandpaper each day. In fact, being constantly irritated at work for no obvious reason may be one sign of a cultural misalignment. If you think this might be an issue, here are some factors to consider:
- Character – Innovative or conservative? Does the culture reward risky new ideas even if unsuccessful or put a greater premium on not making mistakes?
- Style – Formal or informal? Are a wide range of personal working styles encouraged or is individuality seen as threatening to the group?
- Structure – Centralised or decentralised? Is it entrepreneurial or hierarchical? Does the power flow from top to bottom or seek a more natural level in a flatter structure?
- What are the unstated values and unwritten rules of behaviour?
What are the organisation’s strategies and goals for the future and how do they align with your own?
What are you known for?
Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a brand and reputation: it’s what people say about you when you’re not around. Brand and reputation have three components: 1) the expectations of the audience, 2) the promise i.e. what you say you will do, and 3) the performance that you actually deliver in terms of outcomes. The alignment of all three forms your reputation.
It’s critical to understand how you are perceived in the organization and to learn how to build and promote a personal brand that aligns to your career goals and the organization’s needs. Just about everyone I work with underestimates the impact of brand and reputation on career development. Your brand is a major factor in whether you are considered for promotion, offered interesting and challenging assignments outside the norm, and considered an A player rather than part of the B team.
Brand equity can be positive or negative, and individuals who have been with the organisation for many years will have stronger brand equity than more recent arrivals. One or two slip-ups for a long timer who has built significant positive brand equity will hardly raise an eyebrow amongst peers. A few mistakes from someone new to the organisation may raise significant question marks. On the other hand, length of service does not guarantee positive equity. People who stay in roles for too long without expanding or developing may see their brand equity decline significantly.
Understanding your personal brand is a process of self-discovery. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What are my key strengths?
- Where is my career at now?
- How am I aligned with the needs of the organization?
- How am I perceived? What am I known for?
- How well do I promote my brand?
- Do I deliver on what I promise I will deliver on?
Once you understand your skills, strengths, values, and drivers, you can begin to articulate your personal brand. This may involve creating different brand hypotheses, testing their alignment to the organisational culture, and soliciting the views of trusted colleagues and mentors to see if their idea of your personal brand matches your own. You will know you’re on the right track when you meet new colleagues or clients and they say something to the effect of: “We’ve heard lots of very positive things about you and are looking forward to working with you.”
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