27 September 2023

Focus and flourish: Three essential areas to build success

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May Busch* lays out a plan to help ambitious workers flourish amid the uncertainties of a post-pandemic world.

The only constant in life is change — Heraclitus

While this quote is from a Greek philosopher who lived 2,500 years ago, it’s an accurate description of the world of work today.

Frankly, things feel more unpredictable than ever.

First, we’re working from home, then it’s everyone back to the office, now it’s hybrid working.

The job market is volatile with salaries skyrocketing in some sectors and other sectors downsizing.

In some areas, power is shifting to workers but elsewhere, employers are still calling the shots.

Against this changing backdrop, you still have your career ambitions, personal needs and financial goals.

So how do you keep advancing in your career when things keep changing?

Here are three essential areas to focus on that will serve you well no matter what happens.

Get in touch with what you do best

In an ever-changing world, it’s less useful than ever to shore up your weaknesses.

They might not matter when things get reshuffled…again.

Plus, you (or your employer) can always find someone else to do that part of the work.

Instead, get crystal clear on your special strengths and double down on that.

Your special strengths are at the intersection of what you do well and what you enjoy doing.

If you’re not sure what those things are, think about the achievements that have been most joyful and meaningful to you.

These could be things you worked hard on and achieved, like a challenging project that stretched you.

However, look beyond those obvious candidates for the times when you were doing something that felt so easy you didn’t even realise it was an accomplishment.

For example, you might be the one people look to for handling the tough clients and tricky conversations, but you discount it as an accomplishment because you find it easy to win over difficult people.

Understand the system you’re operating in

Given all the changes happening around us, it’s worth spending some time investigating what’s going on in the environment around you.

Think about what’s changed, what’s staying the same, and what’s going on in the ‘power dynamic’ in your organisation.

Who has the power? What’s valued in the new world order? How can you take what you do best and apply it where it’s most valued?

Maybe you’ll discover that you’re in the right organisation but in the wrong role, or that you’re doing the exact right job, but in an organisation where that’s no longer recognised.

Or perhaps you’ll find that the system you’ve been in doesn’t suit your skills and interests anymore and it’s time for a change.

The key is to cultivate awareness of what’s going on around you in times of change so you can come out on top no matter what happens.

Figure out how to establish your brand

When things are uncertain and changing, people are likely to be distracted.

Whether it’s your managers, colleagues or team members, they’ll be preoccupied with their own situation and paying less attention to you or anyone else.

This is an opportunity to take matters into your own hands and influence how you’re perceived.

In an environment where attention is at a low, be proactive.

If you want to get in front of someone and stay top of mind, go ahead and reach out to them.

If people don’t know who you are and what you do to add value, share updates with them.

The important thing is to show consistency.

While the one or two big situations when you’re on stage do matter, the bigger opportunity lies in how you show up day in, day out.

When I was at Harvard Business School, I lacked confidence and struggled to speak up in class.

Unfortunately for me, one of my class grades was based 80 per cent on class participation.

With the semester half over, I had only managed to raise my hand and get called on twice.

Fearing a bad grade, I went to see the professor who told me: “When you say something, it’s excellent, but there just aren’t enough comments to make an impact.”

I managed to up my commenting frequency and was grateful to gain a middling grade.

To create the kind of brand and reputation you need to stand out and advance, it’s best not to leave it almost-too-late like I did.

Start now and build your brand on a consistent, daily basis.

It’s how you sit in the meeting — are you slouching back or looking at your phone, or sitting up and engaging in the conversation?

If it’s a Zoom call, can people see your face and are you looking professional?

Or can they hear you typing on your keyboard, being obviously distracted?

How are you taking advantage of those daily opportunities to influence the way others experience you?

How can you “raise your hand” and show up every day?

In times of change and uncertainty, waiting for others to tell you what to do means you risk being left behind.

If you’re working from home and feeling you lack visibility, don’t wait — go ahead and reach out to others.

If you see the market shifting toward a skillset you’d like to develop, go and find a way to develop it.

When things are uncertain and changing, it’s time to take the lead.

*May Busch works with smart entrepreneurs and top managements to build their businesses. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at maybusch.com.

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