Career Progression: Are you in the driving seat of your career?
Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of professionals to discuss the market and hear more about their individual career backgrounds and experience.
When discussing motivators and reasons for exploring opportunities in the market, three common discussion points kept arising: lack of leadership; career progression; and brand disengagement. In part 2 of my 3-part blog series, I am going to discuss career progression and what it means.
What does ‘Career Progression’ look like?
I recently met with a candidate (who I am going to refer to as ‘Alice’) in relation to a Line 1 Risk Manager role I had been briefed on. I met with Alice as I wanted to discuss her experience and the role in more detail. I also wanted to gain a better understanding of her motivators, her strengths and key attributes, and her long-term career objectives.
After a series of probing questions, I was able to scratch the surface of her experience and what really mattered to her.
Alice confided that she felt that she was missing out on opportunities, and was being overlooked for roles that she applied for, roles which she was clearly experienced in and capable of performing.
It was true. Throughout the course of her career, Alice had gained a great deal of experience at the Line 1 Senior Risk Manager and Chief Risk Officer level within ‘Big 4’ and medium-sized national banks across a variety of financial products. She had sat on the board of smaller organisations and had been the sole person responsible for significant risk and compliance projects - often wearing a number of different hats at the same time.
So how and why was she being overlooked?
To be able to explain this, I need to break this question down into three key areas:
- Personal Brand
- Plan your Career
- Sell Yourself
Your personal brand is EVERYTHING. As investor and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says “Your personal brand is your reputation. And your reputation in perpetuity is the foundation of your career”.
How do you want to be perceived in your market? In an age where social media is at the core of everything we do on daily basis, how do you take advantage of that to ensure that you are building a true representation of who you are and your ‘value-add’.
Build your professional network. Not everyone is a natural networker and it can be quite a daunting task to approach people you haven’t met before to introduce yourself and try to develop a connection.
If this is you, take advantage of social media platforms such as LinkedIn to facilitated that soft introduction for you. Connect with people who are in the role that you want to be in; those that are subject matter experts; or those that are influential in the Risk & Compliance field.
Take the next step and arrange coffee meetings with those that you find inspiring or influential to understand more about their area of expertise, the steps they took to get to where they are now, or to simply pick their brain.
Join industry associations, attend training sessions, and partcipate in conferences and events around career progression.
The more people you get in front of, and the more relevant you make your interactions and your content, the easier it will become for people in the industry to become aware of who you are and your areas of expertise.
As Alice identified, she hadn’t spent enough time throughout the course of her career focusing on her personal brand or building her network which contributed to the lack of opportunities that are readily being presented to her in the present day.
Plan your career
Planning your career is essential if you want to ensure you aren’t being overlooked for those roles that are really going to define your career and challenge you.
If you are currently an innocent bystander and do not actively participate in the direction your career is heading, you have no-one to blame but yourself if you aren’t where you expected to be at any one point in your career.
Planning your career is no easy feat. It involves firstly having an honest conversation with yourself and being transparent and realistic with yourself about your key strengths, your areas of improvement, your passion and motivations, and where you see yourself in the next three to five years.
Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound (SMART). Share your goals with a friend that you value and trust as a goal that is vocalised and where you are made to be accountable becomes a real goal.
After further discussion, Alice realised that she had spent so much time being a ‘good’ employee and ensuring she achieved all core objectives for her organisation and within her remit, that she never spent time focusing on whether or not she was heading in the direction that she wanted to head in.
She often would take roles based on her desire to leave her current role, or her need to find employment for financial purposes, rather than take the time to consider whether the role aligned with her long-term career objectives.
You are your own best salesperson when it comes to painting a picture of the type of candidate you are, what your strengths and areas of improvement are, and what motivates you. Being able to sell yourself is key to ensuring you are attracting the right opportunities.
The most common way candidates can sell themselves is with their CV. Your CV is the blueprint of your career and everything you have done to date. Because it provides such an in-depth narrative of your experience, it is critical you structure it correctly.
Every single bit of information that is on your CV should be there for a reason. Think about your target audience - who is going to read your CV? Most Risk & Compliance hiring managers are currently fighting a number of fires and managing a number of critical projects and will often skim CV’s for keywords and phrases.
It is therefore important that you make your CV easy to read and get straight to the point. If you are looking at your CV and it doesn’t follow the above, here are some tips:
- Provide a high-level overview of your experience and key strengths
- Get to the point - summarise your responsibilities with succinct bullet points
- Include key achievements - approximately three or four achievements per role
- Make your experience relevant for the role you are interested in
- Critically ask yourself - if I include this in my CV will it add value?
Whilst Alice’s CV provided a great summary of her experience, it was far too detailed and very sentence-heavy which made it difficult to quickly and easily understand what her experience was.
My conversation with Alice was lengthy but it was necessary to be able to understand what her ‘value-add’ was. She also was able to understand where she needed to refocus her energy to ensure she could take control of the situation to avoid being overlooked for any future opportunities.