When my parents first started working, doing the same job and becoming a ‘company lifer’ not only earned respect from friends and family, but was also rewarded by long-service entitlements. The figures on your salary package also played a much heavier role in making a job decision. Today, mindsets have been adjusted which means regular job changes are not only acceptable, it’s encouraged and although monetary incentives are still valued, the focus has been shifted.
We now operate in a period where being ‘agile’ is a necessity but that by no means implies that you should switch from each job quietly telling yourself, “It’s okay, I’ll be changing jobs soon and I’m sure that the next one will be better.” If you’re spending over 90,000 hours working in your lifetime, you’d want to make sure that you’re constantly learning and doing something that you’re passionate about in each position that you’re in. As one human resources manager was aptly quoted in a recent Forbes article, “Today employees don’t want a career, they want an experience.”
Each and every person who reads this article will come from a distinct background or be going through a different situation but those variable factors aside, there are a few key aspects that I have always considered to have influenced my career progression – some elements may be harder to achieve due to the nature of the industry, but they will still be areas of a job that you should strive for or keep in mind so that we can make the most of our ‘experiences’.
Today employees don’t want a career, they want an experience.
If this is your first job, this might not be immediately feasible but knowing that their is room for autonomy in a job is what I’ve found to be a key contributor to job satisfaction and learning. As I said in my earlier post on the idea of perfection, you should always aim to do well but don’t expect to be perfect – it’s the mistakes that you make which will really help you grow exponentially. As a result, one of the greatest roadblocks to your development at any point in your career is micromanagement; excessive hand holding because no slip ups are allowed, along with an expectation that everything needs to be done perfectly right. Conversely, you should look for an open environment, where you will not only feel empowered to express your perspective and ideas, but also be encouraged by your peers and superiors to execute them.
Of course, the disclaimer to this is your own individual drive and proactivity – a true willingness to make your ideas heard and a passion for making an impact on the business that you work for. If this is not immediately visible initially because your company is more traditional and you want to build this into a job after you’ve started, I’ve found that demonstrating to my management how I am able to exceed expectations within my current set of responsibilities gave me more leverage to work on other creative projects on the side. Gradually, it can become a part of your greater role and help you establish more respect and attain a more senior position over time.
Office culture varies from industry to industry but even the most traditional of companies nowadays are attempting to improve their office culture. Why? Because it’s been proven to lead to happiness and job satisfaction which in turn increases productivity and reduces employee turnover. Culture is all-encompassing and doesn’t have to (just) include perks like office snacks and beer on tap which a lot of more creative and entrepreneurial organisations offer. Perks aside, I have always looked for companies which promote open communication and a collaborative environment – factors which make ‘getting things done’ that much more efficient. Some firms will actively promote this and provide an opportunity for you to mingle with existing employees but otherwise simply reaching out to mutual connections or via open social networks to gain a better understanding of the environment is always beneficial.
On the less work-related aspect of a job, I’m a huge supporter of regular fun team activities which are not mandated by the firm itself but rather by individual employees who organise events which are physically outside the four walls of the office. This could be a team hike or picnic; a day spent supporting a local charity or even fun team building or sporting activities. Some will directly correlate to building a better team spirit or leadership skills while others are purely about giving employees a chance to take a break and be refreshed to go back to work smiling the next day. At Hootsuite, we have retreats to celebrate our successesand to help build relationships outside of the corporate environment – both of which are crucial to a fantastic culture.
[Culture has] been proven to lead to happiness and job satisfaction which in turn increases productivity and reduces employee turnover.
My personal experience has ranged from large established corporations to fledgling start-ups which both have its advantages for individual development but regardless of which organisation you choose to join, understanding where the company stands at the moment in comparison with where it plans to be in the next few years will directly impact the opportunity for your own growth. Larges companies will likely be more focused on maintaining their market share with optimisations and launches of products and services while start-ups could be more focussed on growth in new markets with existing offerings. Does the company have an aggressive roadmap of product and service developments in the immediate future as compared to the industry and its competitors? What sort of expansion strategy does the company have? How will your role potentially change to adjust to these rollouts and what are the opportunities for you to be involved? If you have a general idea of what role you see yourself in in the next five years, this is also the perfect time to be upfront and explore the possibility of that progression path and how you could attain that role.
I’ve never run my own company before but it’s clear that times have changed and as an employer, the aim is no longer to achieve a high ‘retention’ percentage year on year because that’s no longer enough. The workplace needs to have elements such as those above ensuring that you’re continuously attracting talent; those of whom are driven and motivated because they want to learn and make a greater impact for your company. Being an employee, I’ve always valued the opportunity to really understand a prospective employer’s company values and culture – don’t be afraid to ask questions, make sure you’re not making regrettable compromises and ensure that you’re jumping into a role that you will enjoy no matter how short or long a time you end up staying for.