We all know that there are certain things we can do to move our careers along the desired trajectory, but if we are honest with ourselves, there are probably many things we neglect to do in order to achieve this.
Life gets busy, we know that! And life is a journey, and it’s our job to make it enjoyable and fulfilling, but it is also so easy to find yourself in being carried along for the ride, instead of steering the ship with passion and purpose.
So, lets take a look at some simple things we can all do to ensure we not only stay on track, but that we design our tracks too.
Probably one of the most important things you can do is to plan. This is well worth taking a day of your hard-earned annual leave, at least once a year and use this time to plan. Really plan!
This is like an audit for you and you alone! You also don’t need to be a qualified ACA or ACCA accountant to undertake this kind of audit either!
Planning is something we all know is important, but if truth be told, many of us neglect to give this the time and attention it deserves.
If you look at any successful business, you’ll find that the company directors and senior management team will have some kind of an away day, or strategy day at least once a year. These are meant to happen away from the office to allow pure focus, open conversation and thinking. These days are critical to any organisation, but they are also critical to us on an individual basis and it is well worth giving yourself the time to take stock, think, assess and plan. It’s also a great opportunity to look back at your last planning session, what goals did you set? Did you achieve them? What’s next to work on? While we might give our plans and goals quite a lot of regular headspace, how often do we actually sit down, away from the noise of daily life, and plan, review, and analyse what we want to do, why we want to do it and review the steps we have taken so far and the progress we’ve made?
When we work on plans – it can be really powerful to work backwards. In a sales office, when given targets or KPIs, these should be calculated backwards. Often known as ‘Rolling back the targets’. Start with your end goal, not your starting point. I appreciate that sounds counter intuitive, but trust me – knowing where you are now is one thing, knowing where you want to be is what you need to piece together the missing links!
Want to be a Partner focusing on Tax in a Top 50 firm within the next 10 years? Great, lets see what we have to do to make that happen! So now we have our end goal, we need to clarify where we are now! Lets say we are ATT qualified and AAT qualified, working in a general practice with a mix of accounts and tax duties. That’s great – a brilliant start!
Now we need to get those stepping stones laid out so we have a clear path to follow. Perhaps we need to look at a more tax focused role. Maybe a bigger firm? How about that CTA qualification? Maybe we should look to research some specialisms perhaps?
Whatever the end goal might be, it is clear to see we need to break down the journey, stop drifting and mark out the steps we need to take. Imagine you’re standing on a tree stump, and the destination tree stump is in sight, but it is just too far to leap from your current position. We need more tree stumps! We need them clearly labelled so we know what they are, and we need dates! Time frames! Deadlines! And we keep adding tree stumps until we can very happily and easily hop from stump to stump to our end destination. Little steps, add up to massive leaps! They also stop feelings of overwhelm and they keep us moving forwards! Fabulous!
Another tool that we have and that is often overlooked, is our performance reviews, or progress reviews, or annual appraisals that we have once a year at work. These are often seen as a hindrance, but I have never understood why – when done well, they are a practical guide for you to see what you need to improve, what you lack, what you don’t, what you enjoy, what you don’t, what direction you want to take your career, and how to get there. Use these tools to your advantage. They’re not just a HR tick box exercise, these are for you to identify and plug the gaps! You can use them to your advantage too – if you and your manager are identifying gaps, get them to help you fill them and improve and enhance your skill set.
These performance reviews can be brilliant when it comes to helping you identify areas that you want or need to upskill in. If you know you want to pursue a career in Tax for example, then use these performance reviews to help identify specialisms or niches that you haven’t covered enough. Not ready for Making Tax Digital? Not done much in the way of Trusts & Estates – maybe a discussion with your manager about the STEP qualifications is in order?
Another thing that we can do to help further our careers is to be visible. Be active. Have a voice. Not just in your office, but in the industry too. By engaging as regularly as possible – i.e. daily, with other movers and shakers, or industry experts you begin to develop a brand for yourself. And the beautiful thing is that nowadays a digital brand is not only easy to create and mould, you can carry this with you throughout your career – and you can grow it, shape it and develop it. Done right – it can give you big springboard opportunities to achieve your goals. Building your brand this way can be a really powerful tool, and can make a huge difference in your personal career. Taking a nano degree in LinkedIn might be a really good investment for you!
And my final tip is to find yourself an amazing recruitment consultant – someone you can work with again and again – not just once, but throughout your career. Find a consultant who knows their stuff, understands the industry and someone you like and trust. A good consultant will support you again and again throughout your career - maybe one day they’ll even help you build your dream team around you too!