The constant change and need to continually adapt has created a market of talent with highly fragmented CV’s. Talent now moves from project to project, not sticking around for business as usual which is perceived by many of my clients as a lack of loyalty (which is still valuable). In my experience, talent is always looking for the next opportunity, the next piece of technology or innovation. But what does this actually mean as far as longer-term career development and progression into management?
The difference between breadth and depth of experience
I often have to coach talent on their career options, and a component of this is the difference between great breadth of experience versus great depth of experience, as the long-term career implications are quite different for both.
Those with a great breadth of experience have worked across a number of disciplines and industries. They have a ‘working knowledge’ of many areas and have a lot of examples of what does and doesn’t work. But the depth that is required to really drive projects is lacking. Most junior talent starts in these broad roles, where they have exposure to all areas, but that depth comes with years of study and hard work.
Talent that has depth of experience have spent a number of years focusing on their specialist area and have progressed logically in a company (or several companies). They may have started as an intern, progressed through junior, exec, senior management and then into a ‘head of’ role. They will pick up more and more responsibilities as they go along and learn more and more. They have deep knowledge of relevant projects, market trends, and key players in the industry. They know ‘what good looks like’, what best practice is and can pick up a project and MAKE it happen. They will rally the stakeholders, understand the challenges, drive quality outcomes and report on ROI.
What is the next step? Management?
So you want a step up and manage a team? How do you know you’re ready? Have you exhausted the opportunities in your current role? Have you developed that DEPTH of knowledge in your area? Can you teach, lead and inspire others?
Here are some questions I often ask when people say they want to step up into a management position.
- Have you considered how it will affect your day-to-day life? It’s not just you and your team any more. You suddenly become responsible for another person’s career and their learning and development.
- Have you thought about how you will be able to guide them as well as allow them to fail – even if their failure affects you?
- What if their goldfish dies and they have a day off with grief? How will you manage without them?
- What about when they aren’t performing? It then falls to you to manage that. If you don’t have the DEPTH of experience, it is likely you won’t be able to articulate what is expected.
- Do you have the patience? This person / team will be asking you a million questions a day – and you’re busy, you have deadlines as well.
These factors should all be a very real part of your decision making process. If you felt your heart race, your palms sweat and your innate flight response kick in, perhaps you are not quite ready. If you felt enthusiastic and excited at the prospect, maybe the time is right.
Can you progress without being a manager?
You don’t have to be managing a team to step up. Managing a team is hard, and it’s not for everyone. This shouldn’t stilt your progression, many companies have the option for people step up without becoming a manager. There is a portion of my talent that have the DEPTH of experience, but don’t’ want to get bogged down in managing. They want to deliver. This is okay. It’s not something to set you back.
- You can be your own island, accountable only for yourself.
- You can deliver on your KPI’s efficiently, without interruption.
- There isn’t a team of juniors relying on you to drive and motivate them.
- Managing, leading and developing people is rewarding.
- Learning occurs up and down; there is great opportunity to learn from your team.
- Benefit from different points of view and ability to bounce ideas around.
Career change checklist
This checklist will ensure you think about all available avenues to make the best decision for your long-term career development.
- Have you spoken to your manager/ current employer to ensure you are aware of future opportunities?
- Do you know the strategic objectives of the business and understand where the company is going longer-term?
- What are the business objectives for the next 1, 3, 5 years? Are there opportunities for you?
- What have you personally delivered? You may have been part of a website re-platform or a warehouse move project, but who was really driving it? Would you be able to do it yourself?
- What do you feel you will get from a role that you can’t get in current role?
- What can your current employer offer you? What will change in the next 6 months? Are there any plans on the horizon that they haven’t told you about yet?
Most importantly speak to your boss, don’t let your final decision be a surprise. As this is when you are likely to miss out on great opportunities which will help you develop depth in your experience and make you unique and highly attractive talent in a very demanding, yet talent short market.
Jo Krause, Specialist Digital Consultant
If you have any questions about your career development in the digital space, contact Jo on (03) 8613 3512.