One of the biggest challenges salespeople and their leaders face is how to navigate their own careers.
This is especially true during times of market uncertainty and transition when the decision to explore new options is something you either increasingly contemplate or is forced upon you. Maybe you’re not happy where you are and are looking to take your skills elsewhere. Or maybe you’ve thought about starting your own business one day.
The challenge when it comes to architecting your ideal career is two-fold:
- Great careers aren’t designed, they unfold: it’s hard to architect the career of your dreams from day one. Like drunken college students, we often stumble through our careers, moving from one role to the next, making the best choices we can along the way. Keeping your eyes open, working hard, and leaping to opportunities that excite us is always a better strategy than a preordained master plan that leaves no room for improvisation.
- What we think we want isn’t what we actually want: in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (one of my favorite sales reads), author Greg McKeown states that our vision for the future is often shaped by the forces around us rather than our true desires. I see this all the time in talented Sales professionals earlier on in their careers. The desire to get promoted, make more money, and sell to larger, more complex customers is fuelled by seeing their colleagues seemingly strive for the same goal. Secretly, however, many yearn for a different path.
Enter, the Career Cheat
While infidelity is a characteristic that’s typically frowned upon, I’ve found it’s the perfect lens through which to look at career progression. So when you’re not sure what move to make next, cut through the noise by asking yourself this simple but powerful focusing question:
“What job could you be offered today that you would immediately and without hesitation, quit your current job to pursue?”
In other words, what opportunity would make you cheat on your current job?
As you ask yourself that question, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. It doesn’t have to be a job that exists today: growing up, my father would always tell me that the job I’d likely do in the future, hadn’t been created yet. He was right! Social media, A.I., cryptocurrencies, SaaS software, and even blogging are all fields of opportunity created by relatively recent innovations. Don’t get too hung up on specific job titles you’ve seen in the market or in your own company. Like the ideal partner, sometimes times the perfect job is the one you create in your head first. If you had to architect the ideal job for you, what would it look like?
2. Think characteristics, not role: roles and titles can be misleading. In fact, the nature of the same job at two different companies can vary greatly depending on factors such as working environment, culture, or degree of autonomy. Because the characteristics of the job are often more important than the job itself, start there. Do you want to work for a big company or a small one? Do you want the flexibility to work from home or remotely? Would you prefer to have the company provide you with a tried and tested playbook to execute in your role or are you more interested in creating that playbook? Are you looking for a role that’s high risk / high reward or something less intense? Don’t get fixated on a specific role. The characteristics are just as important.
3. Keep moving incrementally closer to your goal: Love to speak in public, lead a team, or travel the world? Hate having to complete weekly summary reports, craft performance reviews, or be away from your family every week? Don’t worry about nailing the perfect role with your next move (although that would be awesome!). Instead, focus on incorporating more of your ideal job characteristics into each successive role. More of the things you want. Less of what you don’t.
Here’s a video that outlines a simple approach you can take to do just that!
Planning your next career move can be tough and it’s easy to get caught up in your head contemplating different options and opinions. When it doubt, picturing the role you’d give it all up for without hesitation (at least for one night) can put you on a quicker path to personal and professional fulfillment.
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