Global HR thought-leader Richard Cowley on what all you should know and do in order to build a career you love...
When I was 12, my grandmother believed that I would become a doctor because I cared so much for people. In the years that followed, my aspirations kept changing, mostly influenced by the fascinating strangers I met at my parents’ pub. I went to a state school with a work-to-survive mentality. My parents did not drive the value of education; there was no discussion of ambition, extra tuition or university at home.
My circumstances were shared by many in those days. Even today, all over the world, young people face similar circumstances. That said, a strong belief in the power of education holds true today - if I acquire qualifications, then I will be successful. However, as I learnt first-hand, one cannot build success without building a career.
My equation for career-building is simple:
Interest + Capability + Opportunity + Plan = Happy, fulfilling career
In my case, I wanted to travel the world - and though I didn’t end up becoming a doctor, my capability of caring about people came to the fore in my chosen profession, as my grandmother always said it would. The world of Human Resources is global and is prevalent in all industries. I built a plan to grow through the HR structure - completing differing specializations, in different geographies, in different companies and industries.
I had the support of mentors within the organisations I worked for. In addition, I focused on my education, qualifications, and leadership capability – funding many programs I have attended myself, as well as been afforded opportunities by the companies I have worked for. As a result, I am employable anywhere in the world. To complete my career journey I even tried to learn languages - unfortunately, languages are not my forte, and they never will be.
Today, as an HR leader, I have both a broad and deep understanding of my chosen profession. But there were a number of times in my life when I did not enjoy what I was doing, where I was, and the mundane and difficult aspects of the role. However, the attitude that I can overcome anything, and that I will learn from various experiences and grow, ensured that I remained focused on my grand career plan. I propelled myself forward - backed by a solid plan, the discipline to deliver on it, and the nerve to move into uncharted territory.
My belief, and I hope it resonates with you, is that if you have a high interest in a particular field, have the capability to work in this field, grow your knowledge of opportunities specific to this field, and finally, develop a plan of what it will take to progress, then you have the opportunity to have a successful, fulfilling and enjoyable career.
Based on the differences and similarities in our journeys, here are some ways to plan a career:
What do you do if you are unclear about your interests?
As young adults, seek advice from career tools that help you understand yourself, or seek experiences to experiment and find out. My children have commenced their career journeys. My daughter, Charlotte, volunteered in different environments and found her passion dealing with disadvantaged young children. Now she is studying for a BA in Children’s Education. My son found a passion at a young age in stage lighting. He is now preparing to study a vocational path focused on technical theatre. Parental support to find opportunities is key; just like a sport, this requires nurturing.
What do you do if you are unclear about your capabilities?
There are plenty of online tools to help you, many of which are free. Take assessments or look for opportunities to assess yourself in different ways. An example would be SHL sample assessments.
What do you do if you are unclear about the local, country or overseas workplace demands?
Read about them on local or government websites, review overseas government websites, and become familiar with industry information – this will guide you.
Seek out tools to plan your career – online or offline - instead of job-hopping in search for your place in the world of work or leaving your career to ‘fate’ or ‘chance’.
The world is not fair
Some of us have responsibilities to keep our families fed and healthy or parents who don’t care about our interests or capabilities. Accessing the internet is difficult for some, while some may have challenges with language, money for education, or a belief in oneself. Some countries have very little opportunities and have no structure for vocational development. Employers are challenged to provide opportunities to those that don’t fit exactly with their profiles.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, I would recommend you focus on doing all you can to achieve, despite the situation you find yourself in. There are 24 hours in the day, I am confident that you can find 1 hour each day to focus on your career, even if it means accessing the internet from a café, or borrowing and reading a book in the subject of your interest. Find opportunities to help yourself instead of waiting for someone to help you. Your career is in your hands - take control of it instead of letting it take control of you.
- Written by Richard Cowley
About the Author:
Richard Cowley is a global HR thought-leader and change-maker. He founded WorkAmmo, a suite of intelligent, game-changing, end-to-end HR solutions, with the singular purpose of helping people achieve. In a career spanning over 30 years and 5 continents, Richard has worked with organisations like Kimberly-Clark, Tetra Pak, Coca Cola and DHL.