• Gustavo Serbia

Critical Factors for Career Success


My name is Proteus. I am the Greek god of knowledge; I know all things past, present, and future. Today, I want you to become a citizen of my world. My citizens are called proteans, and they are known for taking responsible for their growth and development. Protean people prepare themselves for the future, by learning from their past and present. I am here to offer you an opportunity to own your journey and achieving a protean career.

Traditional Career vs. Protean Career

Until recently, the company would make the decision of when, where, and how you would move to the next level. While this remains true to an extent – for example, your employer must give you a promotion you want, a new company must employ you, your manager must approve internal training - this traditional approach to career planning and success is no longer as relevant.

In a protean career the individual and not the organization, manages the career planning process. Further, the protean person's personal career choices and search for self-fulfillment are the unifying or integrative elements in his or her life. The criterion of success is internal (psychological success), not external. (Hall, 1976, p. 201)." (Hall)

Being a protean person

meaning "versatile", "mutable", "capable of assuming many forms". flexibility, versatility and adaptability.

On a recent post, I proposed that your employer is not responsible for your career growth and development, but rather that you are. The starting point to becoming a protean person and engaging in a protean career is accepting that the individual, you, is the central figure. Once you recognize this, you then begin to take control of the choices you make to grow and develop your career to advance toward your goals and career fulfillment, particularly because of today's changing environment. But what exactly do you need to do to engage in a protean career?

Critical factors for career success

There are certain key factors for career success (Shaffer & Zalewski, 2011). The first three focus directly on you, internal focus, while the latter three have more of an external emphasis - what others will need to see, hear, and feel about you to help your career.

Maintaining your employability

Simply stated, you have something to sell (your skills, knowledge, personality, experience) you wish clients will buy. As long as the quality of what you sell is in alignment with the needs of the employer (or clients), they will continue to buy it. Therefore, your employability relies solely on what you can offer, while ensuring you remain in demand for as long as possible. If what you have to offer is not wanted, you will not be employed. Period.

Being a self-directed learner; acquiring new skills on your own

To offer something others want, you must engage in continuous learning, more importantly, you must become a self-directed learner. You must continually seek opportunities to learn, with the objective of increasing your knowledge, experience, and the skills you have, including developing new ones to remain competitive.

Developing transferable skills

Transferable skills are those skills that are not job-specific and apply in various settings, across careers and industries. Communication, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork/collaboration, critical thinking, strategic vision, interpersonal communication, networking, innovation, intercultural competence, emotional intelligence, and self-management, are examples of transferable skills. These are also called “soft” skills. However, there is nothing soft or weak about these, and they are in high demand. Take a look at The Bloomberg Recruiter Report, which focuses on the skills companies want but cannot get. Do you see any hard skills listed?

It is a given you must have hard skills, just like today is a pre-requirement to have soft (transferable) skills. While your hard skills are likely much more important and valuable when you are starting your career, as you get promoted, your soft skills become much more important. Don’t let anyone tell you that soft skills are for people working in human resources or for “touchy feely” managers. They do not know what they are talking about and likely stuck in the past.

Learning to document and communicate your skills

Think about your resume, your elevator pitch, the cover letters you write, how you present yourself in person and over the phone. These must clearly convey your capabilities and experiences, your competence, in a manner that resonates with potential clients. Although these are about you, they are not about you. It is about the customer (the employer, your manager) seeing, perceiving and believing that what you have to offer is what they need and want; better yet must have. How do you to the top of the resume pile when your look and sound like everyone else? Read this article, this one, and this one to get started. Ms. Ryan offers great ways on how to address documenting and communicating your skills.

Engaging in self-marketing

A few years ago, I was introduced to two concepts I have found extremely useful in my career. The first one is “what is a brand” - what defines one and how to align and sell a compelling story. Like many of the brands you like, you must see ourselves as a brand, so you need your compelling story - one that resonates with potential employers by communicating who you are, what you have to offer, and why you should be hired.

The second concept I learned is that “everything communicates” - the importance of paying attention to the details around how to describe the story of the brand. For this concept, you must remember that what you say or don’t, what you do or don’t, how you interact with others, what you write and how, and the way you present yourself communicates about you; it tells your story. Ask yourself what do you want to communicate? Once you know this, ensure there is alignment between the story you are describing and what you demonstrate to others (your actions and behaviors). Otherwise, it will not be compelling, and it will not be genuine; it will communicate something that will not connect with others.

Developing a proactive and positive attitude towards self-improvement.

If you are not open to feedback, you will die a slow death, and over time you will become irrelevant. Getting feedback is uncomfortable. However, knowing about yourself is a powerful tool to have and use to your advantage. Be open to asking others about your performance and the behaviors you demonstrate. When seeking feedback, be careful with justifying your actions while ignoring what you are being told, as it may come across as defensive and insecure. Also, ask people who know you, people whom you have delivered results for, people you have impacted, and people who perhaps had a challenging relationship with you (or you with them), but you learned how to manage, to give you candid feedback.

Career fulfillment

Look. Career fulfillment is about satisfaction and happiness with the choices you make. No one can make that determination for you. Every decision you make, including those you do not make (which are a choice), have an impact on your career growth and ability to maximize your potential, as well your career satisfaction.

Career growth and development is an ever evolving process. It should be. Today’s workplace and business environment demand we adapt and change. Regardless of where you are in your career, fulfillment, growth and success begin with you. Therefore, to engage in a protean career, you must take responsibility for where you are going and how; you must devise a plan and execute it. Don’t worry if it changes, as that may happen. However, do not think it will happen over time without planning, effort, and sticking to it. If in the end, you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say you are satisfied, the rest does not matter.

Your journey, your career. Own it.

I work in human resources at Crescent Hotels & Resorts. For more on my content follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. I will respond to your comments and feedback.

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