Fulfillment from work is the hallmark of a successful career. At work, as at home, being valued is essential to your feeling fulfilled. It starts with valuing yourself and includes using every work experience to better understand your talents, interests and passions to help you fine-tune your next career move.
Your value at work is in the eyes of the beholder, be it the boss, client, vendor or associate. Your “value added” is what you deliver beyond the job you’re expected to perform. Your potential value and your experiential value are what you bring to the marketplace. You need both to succeed. Potential value is the perceived value of your promise. Experiential value is the perceived value of what you’ve done. Since perception is reality, how you leverage your potential and experiential values throughout your career accounts for a large part of your career success. The challenge is to turn your potential value into valuable experience and to convert the two together into renewed potential.
To increase your over-all professional value, create positive impact in areas outside your job description by following the 80/20 principle: devote 80% of your time to what you’re hired to do and the remaining 20% in your company’s high-priority areas and building a professional network of influential relationships. It is important to remember that exceeding expectations within your prescribed role does not change the perception of your professional talent and worth and only a small minority of the people you network can impact your career meaningfully. So, choose your activities in and outside the office carefully.
A career life cycle is one of many life cycles that shape our experiences. Life cycles are rooted in nature itself (i.e. four seasons) and are applicable to human development, marriage and family, corporations, countries, even civilizations. Life cycles are observable, progressive and predictable. To wit: Newborns and business start-ups eat up time, energy and resources. Teen-agers and organizations in adolescent phase resist structure, experience internal conflict and struggle with getting or staying focused. Senior citizens and mature industries experience diminished flexibility, adaptability and options. Since life cycles have predictive value, we can use our knowledge about life cycles to better plan our careers.
This is the author’s career life-cycle model:
Rookie(infancy): Learn. Get feet wet. Experience “real world.”
Growing(childhood): Explore. Gain new skills. Start identifying strengths and passions.
Rising(adolescence): Test skills. Prove competencies to others. Seek responsibility and opportunity to exert influence. Start to build network.
Pro(adulthood): Build track record. Take on higher levels of responsibility. Leverage experience to exert more impact. Increase visibility. Expand spheres of influence and professional network.
Master(late adulthood): Increase mastery in functional skills and managing relationships. Launch high-impact initiatives. Broaden spheres of influence. “Work” personal and professional networks.
Veteran(middle age): Reap benefits of earlier efforts. “Ride wave” of prestige and influence. Let others innovate.
Statesman/stateswoman(late middle age): “Recycle” previous accomplishments. Exploit prestige and notoriety. Minimize innovation,
At the beginning of our career life cycle, our potential value is high and our experiential value is low. It is during the Pro phase that our experiential value overtakes our potential value. Both our experiential and potential values are high during the Master phase, making it the optimum time-frame to make bold career moves – be they significant promotions in the same industry or new opportunities in other industries.
Job satisfaction, lifestyle and compensation are factors in every job and career opportunity. The three are usually at odds with one another and the optimum balance among them varies throughout both human and career life cycles. One thing is certain: Only one factor can be top priority at any given time. Deciding which one can be a challenge. It helps to remember that compensation and prestige are trailingindicators of career success. Therefore, it is more helpful to think of career moves as investments, the value of which partially depends on whether they increase or decrease your future career options.
One determinant of job satisfaction is how well your career life cycle is paired with the company’s life cycle. When careers and companies are matched according to “young vs. mature” life cycles, this is what we can expect: 1) A young career in a young company is bound to be exciting and strong on team spirit, but high in stress, stakes and expectations. 2) A young career in a mature company offers blue-chip credentials, but tends to pay less and can be maddeningly bureaucratic. 3) A mature career in a young company may mean being needed and appreciated, albeit in an unstable environment with immature leadership and unrealistic expectations. 4) A mature career in a mature company offers stability, but the job may be boring and the company, in decline.
It takes the long view to have a successful career and fulfilling life. You must think of yourself as an entity moving through time, with the “you” of today planning with the “you” of the day after tomorrow in mind. This means thinking at least two career moves ahead. (Retirement is a career move, too.) It also means that you must measure your success by positive actions taken over time and not by immediate results.