By Cheryl Jacobs
There’s no question that the pandemic has had a deep impact on how we work. In the last two and a half years, we at MCG Partners have listened to our clients struggle with the shift to hybrid and remote working. This new way of working has affected so much – from culture, to training, to just adapting to new work habits.
One topic, though, continues to bubble to the surface. People across the organization – entry, mid- and senior level – are saying they don’t know how to manage and drive their careers in this new hybrid world. Because the workforce is so physically dispersed, it feels like the rules have changed. No more casual conversations in the office, or the opportunity to be more visible in a meeting, or an impromptu one-on-one with your boss. People at all levels are asking how they can demonstrate their value in this new environment.
In some ways, managing your career has changed. Hybrid work does require new techniques and more conscious effort. On the other hand, some things remain the same. At its foundation, career development is a four-part process.
Career development: Where do I want to go?
Despite the changes in the work environment, it’s each person’s responsibility to rise to the challenge and be accountable for their career development. It’s on you to develop, train and figure out ways to maximize your performance. The first step, as always, is to define your goals. “But I don’t know where I want to go!”, you might think. That’s natural. It can be overwhelming to sort through all the variables that lead to clarity. Start by asking yourself, what do I want to accomplish? What would success look like? What excites me? What interests me? Consider where you are now. What is your current role and industry? How would you like this to change? You must own what it is you want. Avoid judgment.
Allow yourself to reflect and bravely envision what you want. Think in terms of a one-to-three-year time frame. What would your vision look like in a year? Two years? Three years?
Personal development: What should I do?
Now that you have your goals defined it’s time to put some tactics in place. Evaluate your performance and identify areas that need work to help you achieve your career goals. Your uniqueness is your greatest asset. It helps you stand out in the minds of others and helps them remember you for new opportunities and roles. Identifying (and owning) your exceptional strengths or skills allows others to recognize your value to the organization. What traits, skills or abilities helped you achieve success in the past? Think back to previous positions or times you were praised or rewarded by your manager.
Feedback from others can help you with this process. We often get stuck in our own heads, going round and round, with no clear path to the next step. Be proactive in asking for feedback – don’t wait for that annual or quarterly one-on-one. Reach out to your manager and peers. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m trying to think about what comes next for me. I think I know what I do well, but I would like your perspective. What should I start, stop or continue doing?” These conversations can help you understand your patterns and how others perceive you.
In this new hybrid work world, it’s crucial to stay current with skills related to hybrid work, ranging from emerging technology to effective communication and collaboration, or even techniques for effective time-management and delegation. Take advantage of different online learning platforms to grow your remote skills. This will keep you at the top of your game and highlight your dedication to consistent improvement.
Visibility: How can I be seen?
When it comes to managing your career, probably the biggest change due to the hybrid work environment is visibility. Introverts may be quiet but at least with in-person meetings they were visible! In some ways, virtual team communications have leveled the playing field. Everyone is front- and-center in their little virtual box. But staying visible to your manager and colleagues requires new techniques. To support your career development, you must learn how to take advantage of virtual communications to increase your visibility.
The context, however, for visibility is multilayered. First, your personal career development plan should drive how and where you want to be more visible. Without that focus, gaining more visibility can seem overwhelming. You could end up chasing things that aren’t necessarily going to help you achieve your career goals. For example, getting a promotion, or a cross-functional role, or more access to senior leaders are all very different goals requiring different visibility strategies.
Second, the organizational culture will shape how that visibility can happen. All organizations have their own rules of the road, their own culture, their own ways of doing things. Your visibility plan must reflect the reality of how things are done in the organization. How aggressive do you need to be? Or do you need a soft influence approach? Both can be valid ways to increase your visibility, but it depends on the culture of the organization and what is acceptable.
Truthfully, we all need to get better at tooting our horns. Build a plan for your visibility and which communication methods you’ll use to promote yourself and your accomplishments.
Networking: Who do I need to know?
The fourth step in your career development process is networking. In a way, COVID hasn’t changed this key part of career development but it’s even more critical now.
Start – again – by considering your overall career goals. Think about the visibility that you need and be intentional about building your network. Based on where you want to go and your plan for keeping yourself visible and relevant, who do you need in your network that can help you execute that plan? And think beyond the people you interact with regularly. Who should you know – in your organization and beyond? Professional groups and LinkedIn are two places that can help you widen your network.
Networking isn’t just about what the person can give you. It’s also how you can proactively demonstrate the value you offer. You can build a network more quickly by giving than by asking. Think about people that you need to know to advance your career goals. Consider how you can provide value to them. Ask yourself, “What can I help them with?
Building a network takes time. But it’s also something that stretches over time. Recognize that the people you connect with today can remain a part of your network going forward.
No matter where you are in your career, you must have your own personal brand, one that will move you on the path of growth and development that you want. Take the time to think through these four steps. With this clarity, you can create opportunities and advance your career to realize your work and life goals.
About MCG Partners
MCG Partners a Greater Boston-based consultancy specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, talent management, and organizational development solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner.
To learn more about MCG Partners’ services or The Predictive Index®, contact Stephanie Holmgren email@example.com or at www.mcgpartners.com