Note: This is a guest post by Scot Herrick of Cube Rules.
A career is a long time. It is a marathon, not a sprint. To continue a fulfilling career requires reviewing what work you enjoy as your life changes over time. While periodically reviewing your work and your interests make sense, of course, the review does nothing to create the engine that drives a fulfilling career.
That engine needs to be working every day. The marathon completes one step at a time. In a career, the engine that drives your fulfillment is a simple formula:
Skills + Performance = Opportunities
While simple, the formula is a powerful method of driving your career.
Your Job Skills Are the Foundation
At the most fundamental level, hiring managers want you to work for them because you have the skills to do the work needed. Without the baseline skills for a job, there can be no fulfilling career.
The good news is most people are good at using their job skills. The trick is how to go about building job skills that are what you need for the next phase of your career. To build new job skills, you should use “adjacency.”
Adjacency is consciously growing into a skill (competency) that you may have an interest in but know only little about. Learning to practice adjacency changes your skills in a way that gives you flexibility in fulfilling your career.
Learning skills through helping with current work projects outside your current skill level is a great way to practice adjacency. So is volunteer work. As part of your career management review, discover the skills that are adjacent to yours that would help you build your competency for the next phase of your work. Then go expose yourself to these competencies to start developing them for you.
Excelling in your current skills and consistently building adjacent skills keeps your engine running the right way to have a fulfilling career.
Performance is Critical
Most people get that you need skills to do the work. Many people forget the other part of the equation: you have to perform well in your work.
Hiring managers are taking a risk hiring you (as you are working for them). To lessen their risk of hiring you, they will examine your performance. Accomplishments in your work trump poorly performing industries, companies and departments.
A president of a corporate division of a company I worked for was asked if he was concerned about losing his job after a merger. His answer was “no, because we have so many accomplishments here that, even if I lost my job, our performance will be attractive to many companies.” Since he has gone on to be the CEO of multiple companies, this is sage advice for us working in the trenches.
Your job performance isn’t easy, of course, especially in trying economic times for your company. Keeping your performance high in the current job you are in needs exceptional discipline, both in doing the work and documenting the accomplishments.
Many people have accomplished much, but don’t document the accomplishments in a way that shows their work and the positive business impact it had on the department or company. Take the extra step that most people don’t and document the impact of your accomplishments on the business.
Skills + Performance = Opportunities
The payoff for building and delivering on your job skills and high performance is this: opportunities will be presented. You won’t necessarily have to go find opportunities; no, with this formula you will be presented opportunities.
Are not having multiple opportunities to choose from the essence of a fulfilling career?
When you consistently review your career to decide what’s next, presentation of opportunities is where the payoff comes. Now you can evaluate the opportunity towards where you want to take your career. Now you can decide if the opportunity makes the most sense for what you want to do next. Now you can have an intelligent choice.
Take this simple formula and apply it to your daily work and career management reviews. It reflects the everyday work that builds the fulfilling career.
Scot Herrick is a career management consultant. He publishes CubeRules.com, a site providing career management advice for knowledge workers, whom he calls “Cubicle Warriors.”
This article is part of September 2009 theme: Fulfilling Career
Photo by theogeo