Nikhil Soi is a Career Development Advisor at Hult International Business School, London, UK. With a considerable experience in international career development and employability management, in the past 10 years, Nikhil has been working extensively on the practical implementation of vocational education with research focused on building relevant skill sets in freshers and experienced professionals for generating better career development opportunities globally.
The word “agile” which is famously used in programming, came as a breakthrough technological change which brought the characterisation of tasks and implementing projects one by one with frequent audits and reassessment as the development went on. Considering the world is an ever-changing place with new breakthroughs happening every single day, many discussions have taken place about the “new normal” and “future of skills”, What is that we see in common for our careers in each of them? For me, it’s this clear message – “Time to be agile, and not fragile.”
Being agile in career development means that we think more about the quality, the outcome, and self-development. The ones that are agile lay their focus on behavior, attitude, and learning. They focus on what to do next to be more efficient at what they do. This suggests that the ones that strive to be agile, they are focused on the thought process and behavior to foster continuous growth.
For 100s of years we’ve looked at a “ladder” to determine the idea of what a good career development looks like, but today with an ever-increasing demand of agility, this concept does not sync with our reality, we are in an era of waves and frequencies where our future is more fluid than fixed and our career advancement is defined by the transferrable skills that we possess from our previous experiences, learning the art of channeling those instilled skills in our next endeavour activates our brain which instigates brainstorming, creative thinking, and an agile mindset.
As stated, being agile is a matter of a behavioral change and not process change, considering which let’s try to reframe some management principles to build upon the concept of Agile thinking for Career Development –
1. Self-Awareness – Career exploration is an exciting process that is fuelled by curiosity, reflection, and imagination. Before you make decisions regarding your career, you should invest time in learning more about yourself. Self-reflection is an ongoing process; you do it all the time, in all aspects of your life. You are likely not the same person you were five years ago and will continue developing your strengths, skills, and experiences. Whether you are looking for an internship, a graduate opportunity, or a part-time job for some extra cash, the first step is to understand who you are and be confident in identifying your values, skills, interests, and motivations.
2. Sanity vs Vanity Metrics – Once we become aware of ourselves, the next phase is ideating our personal brand. Your brand will either be shaped by you – or by others – is that a risk you’re willing to take? If not, then it is important that you build your brand with an intention and purpose. Sanity Metrics is all about analyzing our work, what we are doing well, where are the areas of improvement, and the process of examining those created assumptions. It helps us in managing our drawbacks and leverage our strengths. While, on the other hand, Vanity Metrics shows us what we want to see, remember the Harry Potter movie with a mirror, that shows us what we want to see as a future outcome, but that’s not always true it can mislead us to feel great. Maintaining an intersection between your perception and reality is essential and which must be backed by continuous audits. Perception Gap means the difference between how you are perceived by others (employer, teammates, professors, staff, customers, partners, members of your community, etc.) as a professional vs. the way you perceive yourself as an individual.
3. Think Big, Act Small – From an early age, we’ve been taught to “THINK BIG” in order to set a high bar to realize our full potential and to be successful in the goals that we set out to achieve. Thinking big is about impact. Thinking big is about changing things. Thinking big is about revolution. While, on the other hand, starting small is about envisioning a roadmap, it is crucial because you have to sell your big idea. A big idea is only attractive and engaging if there is a slight chance that it is possible. Being agile means validating and testing early. Agile people are biased toward action, value collaboration, driven by curiosity, and act to manage changes in real time. Envisioning a roadmap would require some knowledge about the complexity of realizing your idea and the courage of executing it. You don’t have to know all the intricate details, but you have to see a path that others don’t see.
4. What, Why, and How – The world of today is volatile and turbulent with changes coming out of nowhere and with huge impacts. It’s anything but stable and predictable. Conceptualizing what kind of a career am I seeking, why this career and how is it achievable will help with continuous improvement in one’s ability to build a meaningful and engaging career pipeline. Let’s try to break it down –
- What – Setting SMART objectives and acquiring the skills to achieve those objectives. Reflect on who you are and what you ultimately want from your working life. Research job paths, leverage networking opportunities, and consult with a mentor.
- Why – Outlining a long-term vision for your career opens doors to self-actualization. Planning lets you to be proactive in developing those essential skills, you start envisioning your next steps and practically get a longer runway to course correct if there’s a surprise waiting.
- How – Prototyping is a great technique to help you with decision-making, evaluating the market potential, consulting on developmental opportunities, and practicing knowledge sharing elevates understanding of pathways one can pursue to achieve the desired outcome.
5. Responding, not Reacting – Although with agility, we have to be quick on our toes, but that does not mean we don’t interpret the situation. Interpretation and running sprints, not marathons are key to success. Responding wisely to any situation displays a strong EQ level which certainly will help sustain us for a better future.
Technical skills may help us in acquiring our desired role, but it is the humane skills that allow us to stay longer in that role, which clearly states the importance of building interpersonal relationships with a diverse group of individuals we meet every day.
As humans we are always seeking like-mindedness, people with similar interests, similar likes and dislikes, and similar motivations, what we forget is there’s an opportunity cost attached to everything while the like-minded people will give us a purpose and help us in our development, the focused group will hamper our Agility, the sole purpose of Agile career development is when we allow ourselves to explore potential opportunities which are not obvious and build our professional presence holistically, hence being open to feedback, learning continuously and growing with every experience is imperative in today’s ever-changing and challenging environment.