Three Fundamental Principals For Strategic Sustainable Career Development

Many people come to me to seek advice about career development. There are a few good things I came across in the many years I was involved in professional development that I would like to share. Let me give you my three high level principles for sustainable development.

1) “Act always so as to increase the number of choices.” Heinz von Foerster 
2) Past behavior predicts future behavior
3) Build win-win relationships

1) “Act always so as to increase the number of choices.” Heinz von Foerster 
Change is inevitable and it is this constant change that will feed us.
To prepare for change it is important to continuously learn by constantly looking for new challenges inside and outside of your current job or in between jobs or prior to your first ever employment. To collect a broad experience in diverse fields is the best way to increase your choices. Too narrow experience will limit your choices as you move forward in your career. To collect the experience it is important to do things and not just read books about them or get a certificate through attending training.

“The only way you provide security for yourself is by making sure that your work experience is as up-to-date as possible so that if tomorrow happens, you are able to go out and get another job because you have skills people want. That’s the only way you have security. You aren’t going to get it from the company. It will never be that way again.” Noer, David M.: Healing The Wounds – Overcoming The Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations; Jossey-Bass, 1993, Page 15

I have written already some blog posts around this topic:
Eight Best Practices For Your Employability
List of Developmental Assignments 2.0

2) Past behavior predicts future behavior
Just imagine if you were to hire someone. Just think about any job at home or in your work for which you had received a few applications. Whom would you most likely hire?
Most people that hire someone need to feel comfortable about this person being able to do the job. So most likely they will look at past experiences and performance related to this new job to predict if you would be successful. Depending on the shortage of talent this relation between past experience and job applied for might vary. But definitely will you increase your opportunities to get jobs through the more diverse experiences you have had.

A good excercise I like to recommend is to look back at what achievements (experiences) you already had. This is an excercise which takes a lot more time than you would expect. My advise is to try to take a minimum of 5 minutes of your time every day and write down whatever comes to your mind when you look back at past achievements. Collect any achievement from your school time, private time or any job you did.
How they finally should look like and the best practices to get there is well described in this article: How to write achievements for your CV

3) Build win-win relationships
Any relationship will finally turn sour if there is no win-win. It is just a matter of time.
But how to build a win-win relationship? I talked and read a lot about it. The one book that gives you the best strategy to build win-win relationships is actually a book about strategic selling. I know many people will shrug when I tell them. Selling is often perceived as being manipulated in to buying something. But hold most vendor customer relationships are long-term and not onetime. Sales people have the challenge every day to build and maintain win-win relationships. This book describes an excellent process to build win-win relationships that has worked successfully since many years for the majority of the fortune 1000 companies. You can use this process for any kind of successful relationship building in your life.

What I found most useful in this process is the analysis of your position. In the first step the authors recommend to identify all relevant changes that could potentially influence your position and in the second step to rate them as opportunities or threats. In step 3 the single current sales objective is defined which would translate into your next step in your career development.Once you put down all the items that you perceive as change around you and which could potentially have an influence on your career opportunities you start to get a clearer picture of your position in the organization or on the job market. Too often I have seen even senior people being overwhelmed by changes in the organization even though these changes were already predicted long time ago. Too often it is the announcement of the change that has taken place that actually woke up most people. But isn’t this a bit too late?

What the list will do for you after you rate all the items it will start to make you think specifically what action you could take on each of the items. If it is a threat than you look for a mitigation action or if it is an opportunity than you would look for the next action to take in order to profit from it.But be aware in between you starting to act strategically on each item and having listed them all there will be a moment of emotion. It is important to rate this emotion. Do you feel panic or are you overly euphoric?  These emotions will tell you watch out you have to seriously do something in order to stay on track.

The ideal emotion is to feel between okay and concerned. By working through the actions for each of your listed item which could potentially take a few weeks or months always take a snapshot of your emotion. The aim is to get to this point where you feel between okay and concerned.

Your list should be a list in progress. Changes happen. So you need to list each new change and rate it as you go along. But this is only the starting point of your journey to more sustainable growth. Actually you need to get to the right people which have an influence on your career. And they are not that obvious always and you need to identify them carefully. But why don’t you go and read the book and follow this process that was proven highly effective and successful over and over again since many years in the real world .

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