Welcome to Part Three, Building a Successful Career
Building a meaningful career has never felt more complex than when we reflect on the way our jobs have changed since we started working. The change may feel particularly rapid if you began work before mobile phones, email or the internet!
Research indicates that due to rapid change, today’s school leavers will have around 17 jobs by the time they retire at 75. This trend means that those of us already in the workforce will also continue to experience significant employment changes before we retire.
So how can we navigate this tidal wave of change and ensure that we feel fulfilled with our work and lifestyle? Every career path is different, as are our individual career goals. For some people, a great career is one that is enjoyable. For others, a successful career has financial benefits or supports a greater good.
At The Elite Collective, we come from all walks of life and have had vastly different career experiences. So, we’ve put our heads together to come up with the top three things you can do to build a successful career – no matter what stage you are at!
1. Create a meaningful career plan
The first step to creating a great career plan is knowing what you want to achieve in your career. Start by asking yourself what your purpose or direction is. Some common career drives we speak to clients about include:
- Creating a legacy
- Supporting a purpose or cause
- Mastering skills and internal growth
- Having financial and/or lifestyle freedom
- Aligning your values
- Becoming a leader
It may be that one stands out, or a few of these resonate with you – and that’s ok! It’s also common for these drivers to change throughout the years. Many people seek to create a legacy later in their careers while mastering skills or financial freedom at an earlier point in time. Don’t hesitate to change your career plan as your drivers change. If reading this has you thinking that perhaps it is time for a career change – you might find these self-reflection activities helpful.
The second step is to identify how you can achieve your purpose and create SMART goals – that is, objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. These goals will vary widely depending on your purpose; however, the ones we discuss most often with our clients at The Elite Collective include:
- Finding a mentor or coaching
- Taking on additional duties at work to build experience in new areas
- Seeking a secondment
- Undertaking training or formal studies
- Broadening your network
- Practising interview questions
- Volunteering your skills
- Teaching others
- Optimising your LinkedIn profile
- Asking for feedback
- Contributing to research
- Taking on a second job
- Becoming self-employed
- Negotiating a partnership
- Enhancing your resume
2. Reflect on your career often
The final stage of building a successful career plan is to review it regularly. This might be a quarterly check in where you spend the morning having coffee and reviewing your goals, or an annual day where you discuss your achievements and challenges with a mentor. The timing is up to you, so long as it is regular and purposeful.
There are several areas I choose to reflect on twice a year that you may find helpful.
Recognising your value and transferrable skills
Every six months, I take the time to look back and review what technical, interpersonal and leadership skills I have gained or utilised. This helps me to not only recognise my strengths and the types of roles I enjoy but also to shape my resume and LinkedIn to seek new opportunities to strengthen or use these skills. Understanding which of my skills are transferrable has also enabled me to find employment across different industries, from universities to government and the resources sector to small business.
Using feedback to shape your career goals
Whether you ask for feedback or receive some on the spot information, reflecting on common trends is a valuable tool to help shape your career goals. In Australia’s tall poppy syndrome society, receiving positive or constructive feedback can feel uncomfortable, particularly when unsolicited. I have received a lot of feedback over the years that has been useful. Unfortunately, I had several instances when the feedback I received was not constructive or work-related.
There are three lessons I have taken about receiving feedback from my experiences:
- Emotional responses to feedback are normal. Whether the feedback is positive or constructive, it is ok to feel, well, anything about it! Take the time to feel your feelings and then consider how to use the feedback to support your career goals.
- Seek a sounding board about controversial feedback. If the information you received makes you feel uncomfortable, find a person or group of people you trust to discuss it. They can help you make sense of it, review the feedback from different perspectives and discuss what actions to take.
- Feedback is always valuable. Even if the feedback provided is not constructive or personal rather than performance related, there is always something to be learned. The value in the feedback could be that the person giving the input has a perception of your skills and abilities that is incorrect. That’s good news! It means you have an opportunity to change that perception.
Celebrating the wins
To cap off your reflection, it’s time to don the party hat and celebrate with a night out! Or, if a quiet dinner and a movie are more your style, then diarise a celebratory night in. Sharing your career wins with a valued friend, partner, or colleague will not only make you feel good, it will also encourage you to reach your next goal – and maybe even open a conversation about how someone in your network can support you.
3. Network, network, network!
Everyone talks about networking and there are thousands of books, articles and podcasts out there that help develop your networking skills. Rather than repeat information on how to network, I want to discuss where you can network – and you might be surprised how close to home some of these options are!
At work: It might sound obvious, but networking within your workplace can be a significant first step. Whether you sit down at lunch with someone from another team, seek mentoring from your boss’s boss or take on a secondment to another department, you’ll quickly build a network with those around you.
If you’re part of a larger organisation, you may be able to seek out networks of like-minded individuals by joining internal programs and advocacy groups that support different causes. From volunteering, work sports teams, LGBTQIA+ Ally groups or Reconciliation communities, these programs often result in new friends as well as networks.
In the industry: No matter what your role is, I guarantee there will be a professional industry, association or membership group you can join. If your local groups are not a great match, expand further and consider joining an international association. Skills-related groups, such as Toastmasters International who help people develop communication and leadership skills, are also a useful option.
At home: Do you play sport with the local council member? Sit on the Parent and Teachers Association with a lawyer? Or perhaps you volunteer at the local shelter? Look closer to home at those people you interact with regularly. You might be surprised at what you have in common and how opportunities are shared through informal networks such as these.
Regardless of where you choose to network, make sure that the relationships you build are genuine and aligned to your career plan. Remember that a networking relationship works best when there is give and take, so use your transferrable skills and own network to provide opportunities for others while enhancing your own career.
How can we help you build a successful career?
At The Elite Collective, nothing makes us feel more fulfilled than hearing that one of our clients has secured an interview for their dream job. We enjoy working with people at all stages of their careers and across every Australian industry.
- If you’d like support writing your resume or selection criteria for a new job role, reach out to us today!
- Future thinking individuals may want to take advantage of optimising their LinkedIn profiles to expand their network and open themselves to potential job offers.
- You could enrol in our Resume in a Day course to learn how to write a competitive resume. This is a great option to get your hands on multiple resume templates and direct video content telling what to write in each section.
This blog is the third in a series about navigating the opportunities, potential pitfalls, and changing priorities of planning and managing a career.
I hope you enjoyed Part Three: Building a Successful Career and feel inspired to start planning and networking for your next career goal! Why not take the first step to networking and share this article on your LinkedIn? You could also share the other articles in this series; Part 1: Finding Your First Job and Part 2: Finding a Graduate Role.