Exploring career opportunities within the organisation
Friday, 26 July 2013 00:00
Setting yourself up
While opportunities can be hard to spot, you can find them if you use a thoughtful and deliberate approach. If you want to change roles or get ahead in your career, it’s important that you know how to identify and pursue opportunities that are a good match for your interests, skills, and circumstances. Although this takes time, you can think of the process of finding opportunities as a journey that will eventually lead you to an exciting but unknown destination. You need to be patient, and persist in your efforts.
That said, work that you put in now will pay off in the future. Not only will you end up in a role that’s right for you, but you’ll have a good understanding of your options. What’s more, people will think of you when new openings come up, and you won’t waste time pursuing the wrong opportunities. You will also have a better understanding of where you need to build new skills – and develop existing ones – to be successful in your career.
Have you ever thought of advancing or changing careers within your organisation? Before you make the move to apply for that new job, you should lay some groundwork that establishes yourself as a valuable employee, someone your company would want to keep. If you are interested in moving across or up the corporate ladder be willing to take on new challenges. Think for a moment…Will your boss re-hire you for the same job now? The skills and knowledge that got you the job yesterday is insufficient to earn you appraisal ratings today and, perhaps obsolete and inadequate to keep you in your job tomorrow.
Go ahead and volunteer for extra responsibility. Volunteering for and taking on special assignments and extra responsibility is a fantastic way to move ahead. It not only demonstrates you are a go-getter, but it also allows you to develop working relationships with new colleagues which, in turn, helps expand your network and showcase your talents.
Having a mentor is another valuable tool. Mentors can really help you learn how to be successful in your organisation. They can serve as a sounding board, an advisor, a coach, and a champion for your career. Last, make an effort to build a strong internal network at your organisation. Building solid relationships throughout the company will help you stay on the forefront of opportunities. Having a great reputation with everybody is the best marketing tool you can create for yourself.
Take a look around
Determine the protocol within your organisation. Most large organisations have policies and procedures in place for upward and lateral moves and therefore, you’ve got to understand how this sort of thing is done at your company. Large organisations often post open positions in-house and through the Internet. Your HR department can also be a good source of information.
Small organisations rely much more on personal relationships and networks, so it may be fine to ask around (and this is where good workplace relationships come into play). You should also be having regular conversations with your boss regarding your career trajectory so that when opportunities arise, both of you will be ready, i.e., one ‘to climb’ and the other to ‘let go’.
If you become aware of an opportunity in your organisation that interests you, then you have to be proactive about it. As with any job, you need to do a little prep work before applying. Talk to people about the job and the team. Determine if it is a good fit for you and if you are qualified. Even if you aren’t qualified, sometimes just applying for a different position sends a strong message that you are ready for a new challenge.
If you decide to proceed, consider discussing this with your boss. Chances are he/she will find out about it so you want to make sure your action is “spun” right. You want to make sure your manager will support your pursuit of another position. If you aren’t sure your immediate boss will support your move, then you may have to rely on the support of someone else within that organisation. This is where it really pays to have a solid mentoring relationship with your boss and a strong network of professional colleagues within the company. This is also a great reason to always have an internal mentor at your workplace who is not your boss.
Not all bosses are alike. If you are a good employee your boss may not be enthused by your desire to move on. Some bosses really take pride in their ability to develop and grow people. Some don’t. It doesn’t make them bad people; it just means they are more invested in creating strong results for their department. So if you really think your boss wouldn’t be supportive, it is important to find another mentor, advisor or champion within the organisation. Here are some tips for finding one:
Look around. Who do you respect? With whom do you have good rapport? Who has successfully moved around within the organisation?
Find a few people and meet informally with them.
Just be careful you don’t appear to be going behind your boss’ back. In other words, don’t have coffee with your boss’ best friend.
If your boss does find out, be honest. Let him/her know that you are just exploring.
How soon can I move around?
This depends on several factors: where you are in your career and what type of company you work for. Some organisations move people around quite liberally. But it’s best to try not to move jobs sooner than a year for following reasons:
You don’t want to seem like a flaky employee. It takes time to get employees up and running so if you change too often employers are going to see you as a risky candidate.
Organisations are social networks. If you transition too often, it will confuse your colleagues and people won’t really understand what your expertise is or where your loyalties lie.
It is important to really take the time to figure out what is a good fit for you. If you are constantly moving, then I’m guessing you haven’t really been able to accurately assess yourself and the situation in order to make appropriate decisions.
Now the caveat to this is when you are being recruited and promoted on a steady and consistent basis. In other words, if you are the rising star who is constantly being asked to step up then there will be less stigma. There is a danger to being a rising star, however, and that is that people may start to resent you, especially if you don’t stay in any one position long enough to really show results. In this case people may start to make up stories about you and your sudden rise to success.
Have the right mindset
Opportunities are all around you, all of the time. So, you need to be continually watching out for them. Get into the habit of looking for possible opportunities every day. Keep a notebook with you. Write down as many possible opportunities as you can – you can trim your list back to the most relevant opportunities later on.
You also need to make an effort to seek out “hidden” opportunities. These are opportunities like job openings that aren’t advertised, and projects that you can initiate because you have spotted an unfulfilled need within your organisation or industry.
Begin with your organisation. Keep an eye on current internal or upcoming vacancies, and on any plans for the organisation to expand. Also, think about how you could progress in the organisation from your current position – what paths are available to you?
You’ll also want to network with other people within your organisation and with people in your industry, to keep on top of the latest news and events. If any of your friends, colleagues, or connections are working for a department or organisation that you’re interested in, ask if they’ll make an introduction to other influential people on your behalf.
Make sure that you stay up-to-date on your industry, so that you’re aware of relevant trends and new technologies – these often create new opportunities.
PEST analysis is also useful for uncovering opportunities. PEST is great for exploring the Political, Environmental, Socio-Cultural, and Technological factors that drive change. Using this approach helps you brainstorm potential opportunities in each of these areas.
When you’re looking for opportunities, you can also ask questions like:
Is there a labour shortage in your organisation or industry? If so, in which fields?
Which parts of your organisation or industry are growing? Are you interested in any of these areas?
What new technologies are there? How might these impact how you, your organisation, or your industry works?
Is there a need in your organisation or industry that no one is filling?
Are any of your customers, vendors, or suppliers experiencing problems in your organisation or industry?
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
As you seek out opportunities, you need to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. This helps you identify the opportunities that are most relevant for you, and understand which skills you need to work on.
To discover your strengths, consider these questions:
What tasks or projects do you most enjoy in your current role? Keep in mind that these tasks probably rely on your strengths.
What do you do better than anyone else?
What values do you believe in, that you don’t often see exhibited in others?
What resources do you have available that other people don’t have?
What influential people do you have in your network who could help you?
What do others see as your strengths?
Next, look at your weaknesses.
To identify these, ask yourself these questions:
What tasks do you often avoid, because you don’t feel confident doing them?
What do other people see as your weaknesses?
Are you confident in your education and skills training? Where are you weakest?
Do you have personality traits that hold you back in your career? (For instance, do you have low self-confidence, or do you procrastinate?)
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, think about whether you could turn any of these into opportunities. You can do this by taking advantage of your strengths, or by eliminating your weaknesses.
Identify other factors important to you
It’s also important to understand factors that are important to you in your life and career. This helps you identify opportunities that will be a good fit for you. You’ll also want to think of other factors that are important when choosing opportunities to pursue. This will help you narrow your choices down in the next step. Factors to consider might include:
Fit with current lifestyle.
Fit with overall career and life goals.
Future training/development available.
The opportunity itself; does it interest and excite you?
Narrow your choices
When you have a good understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and of the opportunities available to you, it’s time to use this information to choose the best opportunities to pursue.
After all, if you spread your efforts and attention too thinly, you won’t accomplish anything of value. By focusing your energy on just a few opportunities that really match your interests and strengths, you’ll likely find a better fit.
Spend some time thinking about each opportunity. Consider factors such as:
What it involves, on a day-to-day basis, and how it fits with your lifestyle.
The rewards associated with it.
The knowledge, skills, aptitudes, and experience needed to take full advantage of it.
How likely you are to find it satisfying.
What career path the opportunity leads to.
How easy it is to access the opportunity.
The risks associated with it.
You then score each option/factor combination, weight this score by the relative importance of the factor, and add these scores up to give an overall score for each option. (You may want to include your current situation in this analysis, too – you may already be in a good position.)
Once you’ve identified the best opportunity to pursue, check your decision with your intuition. Does it feel right? If not, look at your analysis and scores again – your intuition could be telling you that certain factors are more important than you initially thought.
Prepare, and take action
Once you’ve identified an opportunity to aim for, you need to prepare, and then take action!
An effective way to do this is to incorporate the opportunity into your personal goals. You can then think through the steps that you need to follow to take advantage of the opportunity, and work towards these on a daily basis.
Keep in mind that finding great opportunities is an ongoing process, not a destination! Keep your eyes and mind open, and be patient and persistent. You never know what doors will open for you when you start looking!
[Dr. Nalin Jayasuriya (DBA, California, USA) is a much sought-after business and management consultant. He is also a management trainer of international repute. Dr. Nalin was a visiting lecturer to the Marketing Institute of Singapore, addressed the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Selangor on three occasions, addressed the CEO Forum in Brisbane, Australia and has presented management papers in the USA, UK, Greece, Poland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Dubai and Pakistan. Dr. Nalin has trained over 5,000 senior managers in over 15 countries since 1988. He has been a consultant to Airport and Aviation Services, Ceylon Electricity Board, SriLankan Airlines, SLTPB – Ministry of Tourism and to several multinational and blue-chip companies in Sri Lanka. He was co-consultant to set up the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the first multi-sector regulatory agency in Asia. Dr. Jayasuriya has led consultancy assignments for the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNDP, Institute of World Problems (USA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.]