A Sideways Career Step Can Be A Step Up – Career Transition OnTalent

Deborah Wilson

representation of taking a career step upward with blocks for a career transition

So many of us are resistant to change and it’s not hard to understand why: it can be confronting when those desk chairs start moving! In my time, I’ve seen many executives position themselves strategically to prepare for what they expect is ahead and then BANG! Egos take a hard hit and these professionals who were priming themselves for an upward career transition within their organisation are asked to take a role that they feel is a sideways or even a backwards move.

If you find yourself in this situation while reading this, it’s important to give yourself some time to take in all of the emotions that are perfectly normal when we feel as though we’ve been overlooked for something we desire so badly. We’re humans first. Try to switch your mindset and consider why things may be panning out as they are. Also, keep in mind that this happens to a lot of successful people when undertaking a career transition and this is not the beginning of the end.

To point towards a high-profile example, consider the founder of Mamamia, Mia Freedman. Her career began as a 19-year-old at Cleo magazine completing work experience where she set the goal to become the editor by 25. Her former boss passed her over for the editor role at Cleo, instead making her editor of Cosmopolitan (making her the youngest editor of Cosmo’s 58 international editions in the process). It’s a decision that although saw her feeling devastated at the time, in hindsight, Freedman now publicly applauds.

Even to this day organisations are constantly reinventing themselves to be more agile and productive and so should we. As I continue to say, we’re responsible for our own careers and that means coming to terms with the fact that we have to continue evolving and adapting with workplaces.

Once upon a time zigzagging in your career might have been seen as a negative but the tables have definitely turned. Having the opportunity to try your hand at several different things provides you with added stimulus and momentum because it helps you to figure out what makes you motivated and content as a worker. It helps you to define what kind of cultural fit you’re looking for in a workplace during a career transition and how to get the most out of yourself.

As employees, we need to shift our mindset and look at our careers as invaluable assets and as a ‘currency’ that we’re actively trading in return for our desired lifestyle, salary and job satisfaction. You may have heard of the term ‘career currency’ from me before, but never really given it much thought. Career currency is made up of a number of factors including:

Your performance: Your experience levels and track record in terms of achievements and career milestones. For example: An employee who has 10 years’ worth of experience in the technology industry who has contributed to maximising three different organisations’ bottom lines.

Your skill set: Your expertise, knowledge, competencies and skills, including general and specific skills, your capacity to lead and any transferable skills. For example: An employee who is a cybercrime expert who also has management experience and can adapt to various roles within a team.

Your networks: The professional relationships you’ve built that you take with you on your career journey. For example: An employee who has taken the time to build various relationships with people within their network, who follow their career and can be called upon as they undertake a career transition.

Your leadership abilities: How you engage with and inspire people to contribute to an organisation, your emotional intelligence and your attitude. For example: An employee who has a proven track record of managing staff with different personality types and who manages to relate with them and get the best out of them, regardless of the situation.

When you think of your career currency as a tradeable asset, you can instantly see its value and why you need to be constantly working towards maintaining and improving your career currency especially during a career transition.

So, how does your career stack up as an asset?

If you’re looking to proactively future-proof yourself or looking for support during a career transition, reach out and let’s discuss your ideal career path and then devise a plan consisting of actionable steps that will take you closer to your goals.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader in Executive Careers. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring, and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746. www.ontalent.com.au

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