Career Mentoring and Support - Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Simon Brown, HR Professional and PushFar advisory board member shares his knowledge with our readers.

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I want to take this opportunity to share with you my learnings and knowledge gained after 30 years spent developing my professional career, firstly as an employee with large organisations including Duracell Batteries, GlaxoSmithKline, and The Coca-Cola Company, and more recently as I set up and ran my own business as a Consultant and Advisor to a wide range of organisations.

The main things I have learned about growing my career was not to put all my eggs in one basket, for example:

1. Don’t rely only on your manager to help you grow your career.
2. When looking for a new role don’t rely on only applying for advertised vacancies.
3. Don’t have a fixed view of your job role, your job title, or your location of work.
4. Keep your options open to widen your choices and increase your chances of success.
5. Think “funnel” not “filter”.

What do I mean by these 5 points above?

To take each of these in turn my top tips include:

Your manager: Realise that your manager is important to your progress in your current role. However, some managers are more effective than others at helping you to see the wider picture beyond your current role. Some don’t have visibility of future options and career paths, some are more focused on just getting today’s job done, and some try to keep you where you are in this job and this department rather than seeing you as a talent for the wider organisation.

So, to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket do consider getting a mentor inside the organisation or external to your organisation or both. Someone who listens has the knowledge to share about career paths, and who is well connected to a wide network of contacts.

Having said the above – do keep in contact with good former managers as they know you can do work well; they trust you and if they move on to another organisation, they may be looking for someone like you to join them again.

Applying for jobs: Don’t rely on only applying for vacancies that you see posted as advertisements. If you do you will be competing with hundreds of applicants for possibly just one role. Why not talk to your mentor who is well networked and may hear of opportunities that are coming up now or soon. Then with a referral or recommendation from your mentor/from a friend you could apply early and get ahead of the applicant queue by being an early candidate. Also, think about how you write your LinkedIn profile and how well that reflects your CV. These days recruiters do direct sourcing of candidates on LinkedIn by keyword enquiry and by looking at your header profile and recommendations or skill endorsements. It's quicker for them and a lot less expensive than placing a job advertisement. Your mentor will often give you tips on how to attract recruiters to your LinkedIn profile.

Be flexible about your job role, and job title: Think beyond the siloes. If you try to stick and stay in a certain box, you are limiting your options. But if you think about your transferable skill sets rather than just a copy of what you do now you will widen your career opportunities. Good communication skills and good project management or process improvement skills, for example, are transferable across a range of job functions.

Keep your options open: You can choose. You can choose to apply for more than one job to increase your chances of landing one. I have often applied for 3 at a time. You can choose full-time employment or part-time or fixed-term contract work. You can work through an agency or set yourself up as self-employed. Again, your mentor can help you think this through, acting as a sounding board and giving advice based on their knowledge and experience. Also, don’t assume you can only have one mentor. You can choose to have a different mentor for each different goal or area you are looking at. I have heard that some mentees have 3 mentors. I have given advice to one of my mentees to also get a mentor who lives in the country/area they are looking to move into. This mentor will have a good local knowledge of that area/country.

Think “funnel” not “filter”: Don’t screen yourself out of opportunities and don’t limit yourself to one approach to developing your career. If you have 75% of the skills that the recruiter is looking for – apply. It's for them to filter you out if they really needed 100% of the skills ( which is rarely the case ). And if you join an organisation where there is an opportunity to grow your skills rather than re-use your skills, that is more motivating for you and more of a candidate retention incentive for the employer.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my own career mentors (yes there are more than one):

David Clutterbuck – Author of Everyone Needs a Mentor - who taught me about mentoring and how to be a good mentor at the CIPD and helped me to run my first organisational mentoring programme.

Fraser Kirk and Asger Bjerre – Colleagues at The Coca-Cola Company who moved on to other organisations. I kept in touch, and they provided new and positive career assignments for me at 4 other organisations.

Gerard Hussey – A former colleague at GlaxoSmithKline who 21 years later has taught me about People Data Analytics and shared a wise quote with me: “There is no such thing as the right or wrong choice. It is your choice, and each choice has consequences, and will lead to something -and you will learn from that“.

Mike Curtis – Who I met at an event on dress code 5 years ago. He became MD for a UK Consulting Company and gave me the opportunity to join him as an Organisational Change Consultant.

Richard Chiumento – Who I met at Duracell way back in 1991-92, when we had a factory closure and implemented a job shop to help 300 people find another career quickly through Outplacement Services. He now runs Rialto Career Transition Consultants and 30 years after we met has found me at least two interesting big change projects to work on over the past 6 years.

And that’s just to name a few!

All good eggs – from several different baskets 😊  

Simon Brown , June 2022

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