Yesterday saw Macildowie partner with Future Focus for a very insightful and thought-provoking event surrounding career journeys. With the new retirement age set to be 80, how should we be navigating our way through our careers in order to get to the top? Paul Meneely, executive coach and ex HR Director for Babcock International, featured as the key note speaker and he reflected on his personal career journey (from chicken nuggets to engineering!) and went on to give advice on how to get Director level. There were limited spaces at the event and with it being such a hot topic, I have summarised the key takeaways for any ambitious HR professional.
Paul started off by emphasising the importance of having a career plan and having time scales with that plan. Although you may fall lucky and move up the ladder through opportunities coming to you, it is unlikely. Knowing where you want to get to and having a plan around timescales and how you are going to get there gives you a far greater chance of succeeding. With that plan comes a number of questions; what are you prepared to do in order to succeed? Who can you count on for help and support? Perhaps a more sobering question, do you have what it takes? If we are going to be working until we are 80, don’t be in a rush to achieve your career plan by the time you are 30. Invest time at each stage of your career in building effective working relationships and gaining as much knowledge at each level as possible.
The content of your career plan was also talked about in detail. One of the classic career dilemmas was hotly discussed; stay put or move? Paul spoke about spending 9 years at one company in his early career and how he should have moved after 6. A great company, colleagues and job all make it very comfortable to stay with one employer for a long period of time. Paul referenced to the game of snakes and ladders at this point and said moving company is like moving up the ladder, as opposed to going to long way round. Back your ability and make the fresh start at a new company and ideally a new sector at some point. The top 180 most notable and well regarded HR Leaders have had an average of 7.2 different roles and have worked in 5 different organisations (People Management, March2017). The lesson? Take the risk.
Other key points included taking time out of the HR function to get a different perspective of HR. Paul noted that many of his senior network have spent part of their career not in HR and found that this added another layer of credibility to their make up. This sparked some opposing opinions on the risk of not being able to get back into HR after taking time out. Interestingly, Paul highlighted the importance of networking and making the time to attend networking events as a potential remedy to this and as a helpful ingredient in general of making it to the top.
Finally, Paul spoke about how accelerating your career isn’t all about you. How and when you progress your career impacts those close to you. Moving across the country for a great career opportunity might be something you are prepared to do but is it something your partner is prepared to do? How will it affect your children and your family? You should be ready to adapt and find ways to make it work for everyone. A closing thought was around when you do get the top will you be happy? It may be more lonely and day-to-day will inevitably involve greater pressures and stresses. Your motivation for getting there needs to be worth that.
I was left with lots to think about but for me the key points that have stuck with me are to have a career plan in mind but to be adaptable to change. Be prepared to be uncomfortable at times but use those in your network to lean on for support and guidance. There should be points in your career where you take the leap of faith and move companies and sector in order to advance your skills and experience. Above all though, always be passionate about what you do – retiring at 80 makes for a long working life, so surround yourself with good people and enjoy the journey.