Working in the recruitment industry for over 20 years I have had the great privilege of being able to meet and interview many people, not only for opportunity to place into client organisations that we are working with, but also talent looking to join our own company. Out of all those I have interviewed, less than 10% we progress to a second meeting and probably less than 1% our clients (or us) actually hire.
The most interesting aspect of these discussions have been reviewing how careers have progressed, or in some case, not progressed. Why is it that someone who appears to have solid industry and job role experience, seems to have plateaued? Why is it that whilst they seem to be a strong employee (on paper), they have been clearly overlooked for opportunities to progress? And what’s even more interesting? When questioned why this is, in most instances, they are not very quick to take any ownership whatsoever.
My reflection of these conversations has identified some interesting insights around what I believe can separate those that have fulfilling careers and those that do not.
1. A continual learning mindset
Be that person who never stops learning. Regardless of your level of seniority. Reflection is a great way to help with this. At the end of every week try to identify 3 things that you learnt in the past 7 days – regardless of how small they are.
Here are some tips to help:
- Reading, listening, watching – books/blogs, podcasts, videos – identify good sources of content, build this into your schedule & ensure you action it.
- Conferences, seminars & ‘Meet ups’ – many are free to attend. And they a great way to network too.
- Online courses - many are actually free, they are referred to as MOOCs – massively open online courses. Aquent Gymnasium is a great example that you should check out.
- Finally, look out for opportunities or projects at work to get involved in – a great way to learn new skills and experiences.
2. Critical thinking and problem solving
The ability to identify problems and solve them is a highly sought-after skill. Pragmatic thinking that allows you to arrive at solutions to customer problems and business issues will be greatly valued.
Here are some tips to help:
- Identify who is often thrown the toughest problems in your team and ask them for some mentorship.
- Put your hand up to be included in strategic projects – listen, observe and get involved.
- Challenge your own thinking. When you come up with an idea or solution – step outside of it and see it through another set of eyes. Identify potential issues with the idea or solution and apply it to different scenarios to test if it is going to work.
True competitive advantage will mean you have the ability to generate new ideas to both old and new business and customer problems.
A good way to excel in idea generation is to make yourself a more interesting person by exposing yourself to as many new learning opportunities as possible – both professionally and socially. This connects back my first tip around continual learning. When your mind is stimulated, you will find generating new ideas easier. You may even like to start a passion project!
So there you have it – never stop learning, develop your ability to solve problems and do that by generating great ideas!