Ever since becoming a people leader, I have had many conversations on career planning with my teammates and many others who approached for guidance. Questions like what do you think I should do next, should I apply for this new role that’s coming up etc.. are frequent. Some ask these questions in the interest of learning while others out of craving, anxiety, insecurity etc.
This blog is about my own personal belief about two phases of a professional career and how to lead them. This needn’t be right for everyone, however it can benefit those who can relate to it.
Almost 18 years ago as a naive boy who had never stepped out of Kerala, I had no clue of which job to pursue, what career meant or how to plan for it. I just joined the first job that was offered. A job to me at that time was a way to support my family and nothing more.
It took me about more than 3 years and a lot hardships that came with wrong choices to find a role that set me up on the right career trajectory. I owe subsequent successes to all my mentors who not only gave invaluable lessons but also helped shape my career.
During this period I have also had the pleasure of witnessing career growth of many esteemed professionals who made it big in the Industry. While they followed different paths to succeed, no one seemed to have predicted the twists and turns their career took. Were all of their successes a matter of luck?
Definitely not! In my view, they lead two phases of a professional career very well; The Learning Phase and The Impact Phase.
The Learning Phase:
While learning in any profession must continue throughout one’s life, this is a phase where professionals spend time learning most of their craft. True career planning will only start once true purpose in life is clear, however even for that one has to go through the learning phase.
All career decisions during this phase must be guided by new opportunities to learn and not by positions, titles or money. For example; someone who is in the field of Sales and marketing must aim to learn Business in totality.
This phase requires patience and focus. I have seen many talented professionals take wrong decisions because their peers at that stage of the career seemed to have progressed faster. Such choices result in lack of depth in learning and set them up for failure at a later stage.
The Impact Phase:
Having learned the craft through education, exposure and significant relevant experience, this is a stage where successful professionals start making significant impact in their respective organisations.
Professionals who realise they are in this phase need to look for opportunities to create a significant impact in the organisation and society. This is the time when the skills you have amassed can be used for the larger good. By this time one must be decided about the purpose in life. Here again I have seen talented professionals making wrong choices due to either craving for more or poor management of personal finances.
You might have noticed that I have not mentioned title, position or money as a criteria for choosing a role. In my view while money for basic needs is necessary, for a successful career, one must resist the temptations of instant gratification of raise, titles and positions. If you acquire right experiences during the learning phase, you will be in a position to create a significant impact. And during Impact phase when organisation trusts you with roles of higher responsibility, fringe benefits like right compensation, positions etc will follow along with a sense of fulfilment!
Another key focus during impact phase should be employing professional skills and experience towards greater good of society. This is important not only because one has a duty to give back. With increasing life expectancy, post retirement period can run in to decades. And if one hasn’t been involved in initiatives that contributes to society or academia, retirement period can get very lonely. This is not a time you can start something new in life.
So in summary I believe having a purpose in life is very important not just for career but also beyond. Learning and Impact phases will help in setting up a career that will be most sustainable and gratifying.