Perspectives from ISB

(Excerpts from a conversation with Professor Chandrasekhar Sripada, Practice Professor of OB & Strategic Human Capital, Indian School of Business)

Navigating a career change is no different in this current crisis than it was said a month ago or even a year ago. The current crisis will not suddenly change everything about how careers are navigated. Yes, fewer jobs may be available for some time. But some new jobs will come up in some new sectors or new job roles. Overall, the crisis is as much an opportune time for navigating career journeys as normal times are.

Fundamental truths about how careers are navigated remain timeless. They get amplified and viewed with urgency in times of crisis. This is same as how you may need to go for a brisk walk when you are fit, but you need to be more serious about it at least after a heart attack.

Below are 7 suggestions I have for those wanting to change their jobs and learn to navigate their career through uncharted territories. Some of these ideas are taken from Prof Herminia Ibarra as presented in her book: Working identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career 

Career Change is not equal to a Job change: Job changes are changes within a certain sector or domain. Let’s take an example of Aditya Ghosh – he was an intellectual property lawyer and then became the CEO of an aviation company, and from there he is now the Chairman of the OYO group of hotels. This is an example of significant career changes. Career changes need loads of preparation and a certain risk-taking mindset.

Understanding the next destination: People can’t change jobs just because they know they don’t want their current job. It is important to know what is the next job you want with some degree of precision and clarity. Yes, it’s hard to know exactly what you want. Hence it calls for investing time in reflecting and assessing your aspirations, strengths skills and above all personal circumstances. Like someone says: GPS can’t show you a roadmap unless it knows precisely where you are.

Allow yourself to play a bit randomly and exploratorily: It is not always possible exactly to know the next job that you would get but it is possible to know the zone of jobs that you can attempt and that So explore, experiment and take pilots around the adjacencies of your aspirations and skillsets.

Understand your skills & competencies: Interviewers today are more and more looking at competency-based hiring. People mistake track record for competency. Track record is mere experience; competency is what you learned and practised from your experience. Job titles, salaries, designations, years of experience, position in the hierarchy may not equal to knowledge, confidence, skills and ability to contribute. You will win career next steps if you can project your strengths, skills and competencies before the interviewers.

Looking at the Employer angle: Everyone looks at career from their point of viewBut it is very important to look at what skills the employers are looking for and what you have to offer. Employers today look for T shaped skills where some is both broad and specialised at the same time. Building a sound career requires you to prove to the employer your value add not only in your domain but also in how manage teams, what different perspectives you bring, how varied is your experience, what are your unique strengths and finally if you are a” culture fit”.

Ability to constantly tread the fine line: Changing careers is a balancing act. If you are too rushed you may not analyse the opportunity correctly and if you take too much time you may miss out on the opportunity Things to consider here would be: have you invested enough time in your current job? Have you gained relevant skills and experience in the areas in which you have worked? Have you done any course, to improve your understanding and bridge the gaps in skills required for your next job

Be wary of advice: Prof Herminia makes this point well. Friends and family may offer you well-meaning advice on not changing jobs, particularly in the times of crisis. It is because that’s the identity they know of you. They are interested in stability and security. Such advice may not always suit you. So take stock of your readiness, and if you feel prepared then this also is an excellent time to change

To summarise: Corona may not prevent you from carefully calibrating your career compass. Your ability to move jobs will depend on your clarity of purpose, your ability to take risks, your skills and competencies, your network and above all your ability to showcase that you’re a constant learner and risk-taker. Chase your dream job!

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