How to be the designated driver of your career

Photo credit - Why Kei via

Photo credit – Why Kei via

In the twenty-first century, change is part of life. Some suggest the pace of it is too fast, the content of change too much. Are you driving change in your industry? Perhaps not, but you should be the designated driver of your career when that change comes.

Way back in 2000, I purchased a book called The Titanium Professional by Hugh Davies. In the book, he writes about …

… a world of work where the only constant is the promise of continuous change.

Well – it seems nothing much has changed about that in 16 years! On the strength of it, I think he offers some good insights into what you need, to have independent capability (his term). He defines this as:

a set of competencies that deliver both success in work and the adventures and fulfilment which [we] need in achieving great lives 

Photo credit - Sergey Zolkin via

Photo credit – Sergey Zolkin via

I rather like his use of the titanium metaphor. He suggests titanium is a metal that does not wear or dent easily and springs back after impact. Likewise he suggests the book is for those who seek a measure of resilience and inner strength, and set out to grow their careers in one or more fields of expertise.

In these times, I think there is a real need to be resilient in the face of downsizing, structural changes in industry and the increase of technology in professions. Some writers suggest that technology will transform the work of human experts. Could this mean professional services will faces a sort of twenty-first century-style industrial revolution? That doctors and lawyers may be replaced by technology? Hmmm.

A career makes an important contribution to someone’s identity.  Finding or developing independent capability may be important for career survival. It is distinct from professional expertise – it more about  retaining independence in the face of change – recognising the changes, navigating them and managing the reactions that accompany them. They have a focus on capabilities that are not easily replicable by technology. Davies proposes generic competencies that apply to all people in all careers.

Self-control and self-management: This refers to the ability to control impulses, handle stress and anxiety, regulate moods or mental state and be self-motivated.

Initiative/proactivityIt is important to have a positive willingness to look for new opportunities and new approaches to situations.

Ability to empathise: An ability to perceive the feelings of others, to understand the causes of those feelings.

Effectiveness with others: To develop effectiveness with others through cooperativeness, leading to create teamwork and develop leadership.

Analytical thinking: The ability to assemble, dissemble, order and interpret data.

In essence these competencies focus on how someone conducts themselves. It is almost a professional approach to being a professional – being informed, aware, proactive.

Future-proof yourself
Laptop by ThomIn an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Rob Livingstone takes a different approach. It’s different yet similar. He too talks about career resilience and proposes practices that will help you “future proof” your work.  He suggests you need to prepare for changes beyond the horizon that you may not be able to “see” currently.

Livingstone suggests you should view yourself as a business, and with that perspective consider your future prospects for the prevailing business and economic conditions. These are things like having a vision for the future, an investment strategy, risk assessments, brand and reputation management and market research. There is work to be done though. There is no resting on laurels to see what the next tide brings.  The work involves

  • reading widely
  • acquiring complementary and supplementary skills
  • running through scenarios (what ifs … for your career)
  • stress-testing assumptions
  • understanding risk profile and appetite

Source: Career resilience: Tips on core skills, strategies and actions that will future-proof your work

The requirements of the designated driver
The common thread with both these perspectives is the importance of being proactive. It is about not slipping into the maelstrom of life, and just being carried along by what happens. It means knowing the kind of (working) life you want and how you want to lead it, in the circumstances of the times. It means staying alive to the changes happening, being curious and open to learning. It means choosing.

Are you choosing? Are you choosing to be behind the wheel in driving your career? Or, not?

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