Increasing globalization, changes in technology and continuing instability of economic environment have blurred the distinction between the employed and self-employed entrepreneurs. Job security does not exists anymore. Life-long employment with one employer are now things of past. We are fast transitioning into a free-lance society. Average job tenures are shrinking fast. Experts are predicting 8-10 job changes for an average professional in 21st century over their career lifecycle.
These shifts have been so fast that many professionals are not realizing the impact of such changes until it becomes too late for them. Downsize, upsize, right-size, or wrong-size; whatever you call them, something happens beyond their control that seriously impact their economic status.
Managing your career in 21st century requires altogether a different approach. You must act like an entrepreneur. Think as if you are in the business of selling and marketing your talent. That means you should keep your talent marketable and manage risk by keeping yourself highly competitive.
To gain a better control over your career and professional life, apply the following 5 approaches:
1. Develop an entrepreneurial mindset:
The entrepreneurial mindset will help you effectively deal with the job security issues and give you a completely new and fresh perspective to manage your own career. Think like a good consultant who is fully dedicated to the current projects but keeps eyes open for the potential new opportunities.
Entrepreneurship is about ownership and taking responsibility. Rather than leaving the fate of your career at the mercy of your employer, take ownership and assume full responsibility. There is a psychology involved with this mindset. When you own responsibility, your sub-conscious mind gets alerted to new opportunities and subconsciously triggers actions.
2. Manage your career proactively:
All jobs are temporary; your career or profession is permanent. Don’t lose focus to proactively manage your long term career. No doubt, your current job is important and you must dedicate yourself to give your best. But keep a bigger picture of who you are. You are not your job.
If you are a Controller, try to become the best Controller in the world. That’s a professional focus; not a job focus. By becoming the best Controller in the world, you would naturally be giving your best to your current employer. It’s a win-win.
When you have a professional or career focus, you go beyond the capacity and means of your current employer and try to learn new things outside your job to develop yourself into a thorough professional. This is very important for professionals who work in smaller companies where they do not have many opportunities to learn and develop.
3. Keep learning and developing your talent:
Peter Drucker once said, “Businesses have only two functions – marketing and innovation”. In today’s economy this is also applicable to individual professionals. Your talent is your business. You must keep updating your knowledge and skills and learn how to market yourself.
Not long ago it was considered sufficient to rely on one major academic or professional qualification like MBA or CA for a life-long successful career. Today, these credentials only give you an entry ticket into the profession.
Once you are in the practical battlefield of your career, the game is very different. Your academic or professional qualifications, no doubt, provide you a sound foundation but to carry forward your career you need to rely on practical and up to date learning. The world is changing faster than we can imagine. Today, in many disciplines what students learn in the 1st or 2nd year become obsolete by the time they complete their degree programs.
As you advance in your career, what really matters is not your degrees and certifications but your practical learning, relevant experience and achievements. According to experts today you need to spend at least 10% of your time learning new things in order to stay where you are. And if you really want to progress, that ratio jumps to 15-20%.
Ongoing learning in your career does not require you to go back to school. Nowadays you can actually learn faster outside the formal education system. Read blogs, attend webinars, watch educational videos; there are endless means to learn.
4. Develop a side economic activity
As an entrepreneur or business owner of your own talent you must think of opportunities to grow your earnings and diversify your risk. The globalization and the growth in digital marketing have created endless economic opportunities for professionals to generate additional income. Consulting, coaching, or offering your professional services through online communication are common means that do not require much financial investment and may create an additional stream of income for you.
Consider starting an online business on the side that you can manage in your spare time or on the weekends. This will not only give you a sense of economic security but enhance diversity and enrichment in your thinking helping you develop a balanced view of life.
5. Create work-life integration
Work is an integral part of life and it must align and balance well with the family and personal life. It’s not about creating schedules; it’s about mindset. Technology and increasing job pressures have faded the boundaries of so called working hours. It’s hard to detach from the work environment even on the weekends and vacations. We are on alert 24/7. Adjust your pace and rhythm; you are not in a sprint race.
Always keep the big picture in mind. We spend our life helping our employers accomplishing their business mission and forget about the mission and purpose of our own life. Have you figured out the purpose of your life? Do you see your work and profession well aligned with your purpose? If not, find some quality time to do some soul searching. It’s critical. Stop living in compartments; you have one life and it is short.
If you are a senior Finance professional, and want to accelerate your career, please visit What it Takes to Become a CFO.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Saleem Sufi is a CFO Leadership Coach and Strategy Expert with more than 20 years CFO level experience working for top world class Fortune 500 and Private Equity owned companies in Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe and United States. He is the Founder and President of MECA CFO Alliance where he leads the CFO Academy with an entire focus on leadership development and career growth among the senior Finance community.