A client was looking to radically redesign the way they manage their employee’s career experience and asked me “Have YOU ever made a career ‘mistake’? Why not? Have you been playing it too safe? “.

It got me thinking about what was at the heart of this persistent problem. Despite all the research, systems and so called tools, ineffective and disengaging career experiences remain a massive drag on any organisations’ performance. Yet, how do any of us know what the ‘right’ next move is? How do we know what’s ‘right’, either for ourselves or those we work with…. especially in today’s fast moving world where technology is rapidly transforming business models and the very nature of what work gets done, how we do it and who does it.

Over the last 25 years or so I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders all over the world in a variety of organisations and have witnessed my fair share of shocking career decisions; decisions that have thrown together people in combinations that didn’t quite work or forced proverbial square pegs into round holes.

However, when I’ve seen it go right, it’s normally because these three simple things are taken into account when asking is this the ‘right’ next move?

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1. Learn to Earn.

The world of work is changing rapidly and if you are not changing with it you are effectively getting left behind. Two years from now, what will your customers and colleagues need that they aren’t getting now? What three specific things therefore need to be at the top of your ‘to-learn list’ to leave you best placed to meet that need and future proof your career? Does this move allow you to work meaningfully on your ‘to-learn list’?

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2. Extend your network and your comfort zone!

The old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has perhaps never been more true. Today, some estimates suggest that up to 70% of all jobs are not published publicly and research has long shown that anywhere up to 80% of jobs are filled through networking. Moreover, for those already in role, networks unlock valuable advice, insights, and influence. Looking ahead to a dramatically shifting labour market, the worth of networks only stands to grow. Does the next move allow you to not only expand your existing network but also allow you to tap into complimentary networks?

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3. Leverage your Personal Board of Directors.

Sustained career success is a team sport. As you think about the challenges and opportunities ahead in 2020 and the new decade beyond, what support do you need to balance out your strengths and blind spots? Who specifically from your network do you need to appoint / reappoint / retire from your Personal Board of Directors?

While most of us, at some level, are afraid of failure, it’s curious that many of us have a major career setback (or two!) at some point along the way. Harvard’s fascinating CEO Genome study of what it really takes to succeed at the top, highlights that of over 2,600 leaders, almost half (45%) suffered at least one major career blow-up at a relatively senior point in their careers.

My client continues to challenge themselves about what experiences really make up a meaningful, effective and future proofed career for their employees. They’ve made some mis-steps along the way but the early indicators are that they continue to scale the business through it’s next phase of growth.

So maybe the question is not “what’s the ‘right’ (safe?) next move?” but “what’s the uncomfortable move?”. What’s the move that exposes individuals to new, diverse and varied experiences? What’s the move where the outcome isn’t yet known or guaranteed?


Mat Lowery


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