Dawkins has found that people at all levels of the organisation lack the skills and knowledge required to effectively navigate their career and to find a way to what, for them, is career success. “Even experienced people struggle to answer the question: ‘What do you want in your job?’ or ‘What activities in your work will engage you?’. So it is now becoming commonplace for even experienced people to seek career advice and assistance to more effectively navigate their career,”she observes.
But just how has the world of work changed over the last 20 or 30 years, particularly for C-level executives within organisations? Graeme Codrington, a researcher, futurist, speaker, board advisor and recognised expert on the new world of work, says that, besides the changes in industries, and apart from market conditions, globalisation, the accelerated speed of change, and a variety of other external factors that are causing disruptive change, there are two major shifts that have taken place in the last three decades that impact C-level executives directly.
“The first is a significant change in how we think of hierarchy and control. This shift is easily spoken about – a shift from control to influence, from structural or positional authority to personal authority, among others – but it is not easy for many senior leaders, especially Baby Boomers (persons born during the post-World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964), to change a lifetime of mind-set and managerial approach. “The second change is the openness and transparency of the modern business world. No longer are certain decisions and flows of information reserved for certain levels of the organisation. We’re in a much more fluid world. This leads to increased stress and uncertainty. Leaders who have learnt to lead in environments that are predictable, structured and consistent will find it difficult to be at their best in this new world of work,” explains Codrington.
Dawkins says that it’s a common occurrence in her business to be approached by a senior person experiencing what she calls a ‘career dilemma’. “We are seeing more and more career dilemmas at all levels of the organisation, given the great number of complexities and opportunities in the world of work right now. “Especially as the ageing Baby Boomers head into their ’50s and retirement looms, they’re wondering whether all of the hard work and sacrifices that have characterised their careers have been worth it. But at the same time, they realise that retirement doesn’t have to be the end of the career road for them, and they’re starting to think about how to leave a legacy, do something truly significant and also get work-life balance (actually achieve it, and not just talk about it). As they think these thoughts, they realise that they don’t actually have to wait for retirement to achieve this,” she explains.
The reality is that many senior people lack the skills and patience (and sometimes courage) to think differently about themselves and their possibilities in the workplace. Many of them have been on the same career path for many years and struggle to imagine themselves in a new or different role. So, the biggest challenge is to manage fears and start to think in a way that allows new possibilities to surface. In their book, the authors introduce the concept of a Theatre of Dreams, where a person is encouraged to take some time out to play with job and role possibilities by combining their knowledge, talents and skills in a variety of ways to play different roles.
Learning New TricksWhile this may seem a rather abstract if not downright airy-fairy pursuit, as Codrington points out, the main theme of the book is that the key to lifelong career fulfilment is to know who you are and what would be best for you. “For some that means working within a larger structure, working with and for others. For others, the entrepreneurial life holds more challenge and satisfaction. It’s not unusual for each of these types to look longingly at the ‘green grass’ across the fence. In tough months (and at Christmas), entrepreneurs dream of paid leave, thirteenth cheques and assured salaries. During particularly dispiriting meetings and corporate projects, the employee dreams of sleeping late, managing their own time and the flexibility they perceive an entrepreneur has. The keyis to know yourself, and the five steps in our book will guide you along that path, no matter where you find yourself now, or where you should be heading,” he maintains.
Dawkins’s advice for senior-level employees in terms of remaining relevant and marketable in this ever-changing world of work is to keep learning and seek to continuously improve. “By promoting a culture of learning around you, you also benefit from others’ learning. Learn about yourself, about the emerging trends and opportunities in the world of work, about your company and your competitors, about technology and anything else that grabs your interest. The world ischanging and only by learning will your skills and value remain relevant.
“It’s also vital to be working in your sweet spot, where your best skills and abilities meet your passions and interests. Too many people are trapped doing jobs they’re good at, but don’t really enjoy. Those who do work they’re good at – and continue to improve – and also demonstrate passion for it will always be marketable," she notes.
“Successful career navigators adopt mind-sets, as detailed in the book, that allow them to take responsibility for their career and achieve career success. You will notice that in most of the case studies, we have assisted people to adopt new mind-sets, really to improve their thinking, which has allowed them to navigate their career more effectively. Sadly there is no quick-fix solution to career success, but the good news is that the skills needed to navigate your careercan be learnt, easily applied and are detailed in the book,” concludes Codrington.
It's Never Too Late for a C-Change
The slim volume that is Navigating Your Career belies the wealth of information it contains. Yes, you can read it in a weekend, but, as the authors point out, navigating your career and overcoming career dilemmas require a mind-set change and action, that is, thinking and behaving differently over time.”
"Career advice and guidance used to be provided mainly for those leaving school and entering the workplace,” observes Dawkins, a career development specialist. “This is no longer the case, as everyone is faced with the changing world of work and the resulting complexities and opportunities. Having a goodjob has become the number one social value of our times, driving us all to examine our career and job choices,” she says.