Think backwards to move your career forwards

Written by
Changeboard Team

14 Nov 2014

14 Nov 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Change your way of thinking

Sometimes a bit of lateral thinking is needed to re-energise your career. As a career coach people approach me at different times in their careers; a company change, a redundancy, a promotion or at a crossroads. There are also those who are simply ‘stuck’ in their current role.

The competitive jobs market is no doubt encouraging some people to ‘sit tight’ in their roles longer than they might otherwise do, so it's essential to ensure that motivation and confidence remains at a suitably high level.

Challenge yourself

I was working with a client who was considering leaving his blue chip organisation to find something new, driven by the fact that internally there just weren’t enough challenges to keep his career moving forward. As a consequence his motivation and confidence were beginning to wane. We discussed his strengths, skills and aspirations and it became clear that as he was really suited to his sector he might be a little foolish to let go what he had, but instead he should build upon it. But how?

The bottom line was that he had to spot opportunities to build his career within the business. Great idea, but again he became stuck with how he could achieve this. In these circumstances I believe wholeheartedly in a change principle that most of us ignore. It's simply this: think back to the time when you started in your role and recognise the way you behaved at that time.

The joy of witnessing a new starter in any business is the freshness they bring. They are unaffected by the institutional norms and expectations and as a consequence enjoy the freedom to question, challenge and learn. They seem to have the courage to ask the ‘stupid’ or obvious questions, they proactively seek information, investigate alliances and relationships and make suggestions with fresh observation. This is in marked contrast to the majority of more institutionalised employees.

Make a 90 day plan

My client returned to his role and opened his eyes to a new ‘first 90 day’ plan. He appropriately challenged his boss on a number of procedures; he suggested ways to make improvements to the department which he had simply tolerated before; he asked for regular 1-1 meetings to discuss his progress (ensuring he gathered metrics to demonstrate this); he proactively networked and encouraged career conversations with senior management; he actively sought to understand what he needed to do to become a ‘high performer’ within his organisation.

The outcome has been remarkable. He is now a fulfilled and motivated employee, who is now noticed and valued for his overt contribution. He is asked onto interesting projects and has a renewed respect from his peers and managers. He has also secured a pay increase and a place on their high performer scheme. This is a very different person to the one who first sat in front of me saying that it was time to move on.

Go to a new starter state

So next time you or one of your team feels stale, return to your ‘new starter state’; energise your inquisitiveness, constructively challenge the norms and spot opportunities for fresh thinking. They are there for the taking; it just needs a bit of conscious effort to step back outside the institutionalised state.

It’s motivating, fun, challenging and rewarding. This engagement will be noticed and your career will enter a whole new positive phase.