As I have written in my previous blogs your career momentum is the currency you leverage to move ahead in your role and to get what you want. What is career momentum? It is an indication of how you are moving forward in your job and how that translates into your bargaining power for yourself to get better title, salary, or assignments. If you remember your high-school physics you can equate it to your first time-derivative of your position where you are in your career; it is an indication of how you are moving in the right direction to increase your value and to secure your next station in your career growth.
Many prospects, when they first come to me, are suffering from poor career momentum. They are stuck in the same role or job for longer than they expected; they are not getting promoted to the next title, despite better than average performance reviews; their salaries have tanked; etc. In some cases they have regressed in their roles because they showed no promise of growth. Some are out of work and looking for new jobs to land, but as their job search drags on from weeks to months they get nervous about how to present their résumé when their most recent several months—or even years—show no impactful entries in their chronology.
So, what are some of the ways you can re-ignite your career momentum and make yourself more marketable? I’d like to share some recent examples of clients during this year (2016), where, by focusing on their career momentum the course of their career changed for the better:
1. Taking on a customer-centric initiative: One director-level client responsible for a large UI team at an F-100 company was feeling severely limited by the leadership of his boss. In our sessions it became apparent that the company needed a much broader attack on unifying its myriad product offerings through a common UI to make it seamless for customers to go from one product to another.
So, we fashioned a company-wide initiative to propose this to his management, but because of the leadership limitations of his immediate boss the initiative tanked. This, in turn, severely limited my client’s activities, preventing him from exploiting a great opportunity to build his momentum. Luckily, in some meetings with the higher-ups my client was able to present the unifying vision and how he could operationalize it. When the senior management saw that his boss was getting in the way, he was taken out, giving my client a mandate to take the company-wide initiative reporting to his skip-level boss. The initiative is now back on track, which is helping my client rebuild his career momentum. Lesson: If you have a clear vision for helping your customer—and your company—do not let your boss stand in your way!
2. Re-purposing a failed initiative: A client at a social media company got tired of merely crunching numbers despite her PhD in Data Science. Her team had taken on an initiative to understand member behavior and how to leverage that to further increase member engagement. Because of team politics that important initiative went nowhere and was soon shelved as impractical. In the process my client was spending most of her time doing stultifying tasks that did not require her level of expertise and was looking to get out. Since she lacked career momentum to make a productive exit, we decided to take a closer look at the shelved initiative. With some re-thinking we were able to bring new life to that shelved initiative, proposing a recovery plan to her boss. Since a large effort was now shelved with no prospects for success her boss agreed to the recovery plan she proposed. She took charge, quickly mobilizing the effort with a different set of parameters, running many tasks on her own. Her boss had allowed her freedom to use resources as needed, but now it was her project. Soon, she was able to make a breakthrough and the initiative was expanded to several hundred million users, making that a significant accomplishment for the year for both, her and her boss. Now that she has great momentum and loves what she is doing she does not want to leave. Lesson: Do not discard failed initiatives if you can breathe new life into them for your benefit (and your company’s).
3. Expand your horizons: Yet another director-level client was shepherding a company-wide inter-ops initiative. This required for all the company’s products to operate with each other much more easily than was currently possible. As my client embarked on the ambitious initiative he found out that unless all product teams adopted a unified design philosophy and guidelines it would be much more difficult to bring all future products under a unified operating system. So, rather than fighting the development teams, which were resisting this regime, we decided for my client to go a few steps up the chain of command and get him the mandate to oversee how the design teams operated. Soon, he was given the mandate to guide the design teams with a unified approach, which made his original initiative much more workable. This client now has a much bigger responsibility with a larger team—and a charter—to support his role. Lesson: Do not limit yourself by the scope of your assignment if you can be more effective in increasing the scope of your responsibilities.
4. Expanding your skillset: With the exploding new technologies and expanding skill requirements for new jobs it is a good idea to pick an area of work that you want to grow you career and identify some courses that you can take from online offerings. Coursera, Udacity, and MOOCs have countless offerings that are available without having to leave your home. Getting some meaningful certifications and then engaging yourself in assignments that leverage those skills is a good way to enrich your résumé as you do your everyday job. In just one such case a client, who wanted to migrate from high-tech to biotech was able to translate his Big-Data and analytics expertise into biotech by taking some courses in data visualization and bioinformatics. Lesson: Keep growing your skills repertoire to keep yourself marketable.
5. Quickening your job search: This happens to those out of work and looking. As their seniority increases its gets harder to land a job and the job search can drag on for months or even years. Often, looking for a new job can itself become a full-time job. So, when an out-of-work candidate gets in front of an interviewer it is difficult for them to explain what they have been doing in the recent months/years. This can become a showstopper in your getting the job offer. To obviate such a showstopper it is prudent to have some productive engagements during your job search. As a volunteer at some non-profit that is in the same field as your work would be a good place to engage yourself for some meaningful entries on your résumé. This also has the benefit of your networking with those who are involved with the organization. Often, well-connected people are involved in such civic organizations, who can help you in your job search. Working for a start-up for equity is yet another option worth exploring. Lesson: When out of work and looking, do not be consumed by just looking for a job.
So, here are some suggestions on how you can improve your career momentum by taking some initiatives on your own. See if these offer you some insights by looking at these successes and focus on your career momentum to get what you want from your career.