Pathfinder International is blessed to have regular columns from Forces Pension Society, Officer’s Association, Jordan Wylie and Giles O’Halloran. Here Giles provides his top ten career tips…
I have now spent over half my life employed and in work. I have been very lucky with the opportunities I have been presented with, and I have had three career paths in the last twenty years. Looking back and thinking about how I have carved my career, I have found that there have been some simple principles that I have followed, and I wanted to share these with you in this month’s column so that it might give you some food for thought going forward.
The Application form is not the only way to gain access:
If I am very honest, I have never been successful with any of the civilian roles I have applied for. I have experienced that depressing feeling of never getting shortlisted or never hearing back from a potential employer. However, I have still managed to carve a career and secure opportunities that have interested and engaged me. I have relied more on my network than anything else. It has been about who has known me, recommended me or heard about me through a third party. I realised about fifteen years ago that by developing and sustaining my network, I would be able to tap into the opportunities that interested me and connect with people of influence that could help me get to the right decision makers. Through doing so, I have managed to find the right career path for me.
Always be learning:
The way we learned at school is not the only way we learn. You do not have to be in a classroom to learn and there are so many opportunities to learn through life, whether through personal study or learning in the moment. We learn from others, discussions, blogs, white papers, videos, podcasts – the list is truly endless, and more people are realising that they can maintain learning throughout their career to hone their skills and capabilities as they progress. Think about resources and not just courses when you want to learn. What can you watch, listen to or who can you talk to that you can learn from? They could be a peer, a coach, a mentor or a good manager. We need to take the opportunity to learn whenever and wherever possible. Always remember though that you need to be in the right frame of mind to do so, that will help determine whether bite size, a discussion or deep learning might be best for you at that moment in time. Whatever the case, learning should be lifelong.
Always be prepared to adapt:
People are always saying the world is changing too fast, but it isn’t for those who are adaptive and aware of what is going on. There have been massive changes in the way we work over the last two decades and these will only continue. More people have better technology at home than in the workplace, but this was the other way around a couple of decades ago. Most people were adapting to email then and now we are overloaded by it, more likely to access email from a mobile phone than a desktop computer. These are big changes, but they have been progressive. They did not change overnight, and we moved with the need to change depending on our work and the context of the change. To remain employable and to manage the anxiety of change, it is best to keep aware of the world that is changing around you. Take time to watch programmes about what is changing, read articles or papers that inform you and keep your knowledge current. Through doing so, you start to develop a self-awareness of change that helps create that all important personal resilience.
Know your network:
There are people on LinkedIn that have thousands of contacts and think that this makes them an influencer. This is far from the truth. Your network is purely about numbers unless you can activate and engage with it. You therefore need to get to know your network – read about the people you connect with, message them, chat to them and meet them. Meeting people face to face strengthens both trust and relationships, and through doing so you not only sustain but strengthen your network. Chris Anderson (previous editor of Wired Magazine and now a recognised author) rightly said that in the modern world, your currency is about two things – credibility and trust. If you can build upon these and share with your networks, then this will help you build more rewarding relationships that serve the interests of everyone around you. That not only makes life and work more fulfilling, but also makes you more adaptive and responsive to the world as it changes, because the people around you help you keep your finger on the pulse.
Be your personal brand:
Although I sometimes worry that we have strayed too far into the world of the selfie and everything is about self-promotion, there is a need to be visible and accessible in the modern world of work. You need to have a persona that people can connect with and you need to be able to manage that perception in an engaging and authentic way, otherwise you risk damaging both any credibility and trust you have with people. It is worthwhile thinking about what makes you unique, ask your friends, family and colleagues about their thoughts. They often see things that we take for granted or never realise, yet they can be the very things that help us connect with others and that are truly valued. Through being the real you and allowing people to connect with that persona helps build stronger relationships and more robust networks.
Manage and make time:
I hear the cliché “I just don’t have the time” too much. We all have time if we have the courage to manage our time – and that does mean just that, your time. It is your life! There are so many demands upon our time, but we have to be honest with people and ourselves. We need to take time to think, to focus on what matters and spend time where it matters most. It may start with managing time more efficiently, but it could then progress to looking at what actually does matter – not just in terms of work, but our personal life and needs. When we can blend these to be effective, we will be more relaxed, fulfilled and spending time doing stuff with the people who we truly value.
Invest in your assets:
Whether it is your skillset, the people around you, your knowledge etc., it is all about investing time and effort in what provides the best returns. This is not just about money and if you focus on this alone, then it could be damaging to you in other ways. Think about all the things around you that help you be the person you are, do the work you love or give you the opportunities to develop all important next steps. That is where you need to be investing your time, but you need to take time as suggested above to make sure you can indeed identify what matters and more importantly, why it matters.
Crowdsourcing is a catalyst:
Although sometimes we feel isolated and alone, that is often never the real case. We are only one swipe or tap away from the rest of the world thanks to social media available on our mobile devices. Never be afraid to reach out to ask for support, advice or to ask a question. I have found my network have often come up with ideas, insights and answers I would never have come up with. The people we are connected to can be inspirational and influential and this is so true when it comes to careers, so always reach out to those around you, they may open more doors and opportunities than you expect.
Balance the books:
Time as I have shared above is one thing people focus a lot on. I fully understand and respect why. We have a limited time on this planet and none of us know when it will end. It is therefore crucial that we take time away from work and things that are demanding of our mental and physical self. We need to recharge and refresh, just like the cells in our body when we sleep at night. It is essential you find things that you enjoy, provide a break and that both relax and energise you. Not only will they make you happier throughout your career, but also enrich you as a professional person. So always look for opportunities to balance the wellbeing equation.
Manners cost nothing:
A simple but very true statement. Saying thank you, expressing gratitude or just telling someone well done can be very powerful. They not only show respect but that you value the other person. This is sometimes lost in the selfie generation mindset, but they learn quickly that without respect being mutual, they are a toxic connection in any network. Telling people, you appreciate what they do and thanking them is not only memorable but goes a long way to strengthen bonds of trust and commitment. They make your networks more human and more supportive, so never forget your manners or people will forget you.
And on that final note … let me thank you for allowing you to share my top ten tips to help you with your career going forward. I hope they have been of use and might give you a pause and some food for thought.