performance and career progression secrets for the job seeker

There is a lot of advice out there about how to land your next job.

You would frequently come across career advice on topics like practical tips on CVs and cover letters, and how to prepare for interviews.

Once you have landed a job, there’s a lot to learn about performing at your best and achieving regular career progression. Now, go a step further. How do you ensure top performance at each new job you have?  How do you demonstrate your value and role in business continuity and recovery? And what are key practical tips for career progression? 

Here are six guidelines on these very subjects that working professionals have learned from experience that they don’t teach you at school. 

1. Find your personal brand, fast

We hear it a lot: just be yourself. Authenticity is what matters. This is where your personal brand comes in and it includes your core values, strengths and motivation at work. You can develop your personal brand by:

  • Cultivating a well-rounded career path with diverse experience
  • Using social media to post information, content and other media to become a thought leader
  • Starting a blog or podcast about your industry or profession
  • Speaking on panels at events and conferences
  • Being vocal at your current job about accomplishments and milestones reached. 

A well-rounded personal brand makes you stand out. Gavin Teo, Associate Director, Banking and Finance at Michael Page Singapore says, “Personal branding is incredibly significant in today’s context with the widespread use of social media. One needs to be a subject matter expert, have a good career track record and achieve many milestones to be recognized internally by management and peers, as well as externally by the industry. Your visibility, both online and in your network plays a more important role than you ever think, especially in today’s current remote working mode.”

2. Focus on agility

In times like these, companies have switched from long-term, 5-year strategies to more agile models that allow them to be reactive to unexpected and evolving circumstances. Because of this, they expect the people they hire to also have the agility to move quickly along with them. 

It’s no longer enough to simply fill the basic requirements of your role – true agility means you can jump into other areas as needed.

Professionals today can be ready to exhibit this agility by thinking outside of the box, or more specifically, outside of their job description. As Crystal Ng, Associate Director, Human Resources at Michael Page Malaysia advises, “Being agile is essential – as AI and other technologies become more advanced, the more mundane part of our jobs can easily be replaced by robots and automation. As such, professionals should focus on adding value to their current role and have an end-to-end understanding of all the processes and strategies that they are involved in. It’s no longer enough to simply fill the basic requirements of your role – true agility means you can jump into other areas as needed.” 

An agile professional is someone who: 

  • Can easily make the switch to new ways of working without reducing productivity
  • Thinks quickly on their feet
  • Responds well to change, short deadlines and quick pivots
  • Is prepared to take on new responsibilities outside of their initial job scope. 

Being agile is also about not being afraid to test out new ideas. In the current market, where most business models have been turned on their head, displaying the agility to try new things will get you noticed. As Nicolò Zanelli, Associate Director, Engineering and Manufacturing at Michael Page Vietnam points out, now is the perfect time to try. “Be disruptive – you have nothing to lose in the new normal. It’s a new start, and if you have a genuine idea you might beat our competitors to the punch.” 

3. Be your own advocate in the workplace 

Be proactive, don’t wait for opportunities to come to you and be vocal about where your aspirations for career profession lie. As Ng says, “Show initiative. If you want to be a people manager, voice out your passion for leading a team. Find ways to get the experience you will need in that higher role so that you are ready when it comes along. Find someone to mentor, get involved and take leadership roles in company activities like corporate social responsibility groups or team building for a chance to practice and display your leadership skills.” 

Being vocal is essential. Very simply put, people don’t know you want a job unless you ask for it. During a recent Michael Page webinar, Sara Cheng, Managing Director of Twitter Greater China said: “We are the masters of our own career, when you are planning for your next move take three steps. 1. Prepare. 2. Identify your goals. 3. Ask.”

4. Do the work before the title change 

Gustavo Fuchs, General Manager of Microsoft Solutions Asia, stressed the importance of growing within your current role before looking for that next step in your career. He shares, “If you want to move up, develop your assets as a leader, and experiment while growing in your current role. Then reflect: What can you do before you get promoted?” Have an open discussion with your current manager that allows you to explore and work towards your next job. 

Progression can often come before the title change, so start looking at the attributes and responsibilities that are required to take the next step in your career.

Emma Parnwell, Associate Director, Human Resources, at Michael Page Australia echoes the sentiment of doing the work before the actual title change. “Progression can often come before the title change, so start looking at the attributes and responsibilities that are required to take the next step in your career. From here, you can actively seek to gain exposure to these areas and insights. Check in with your goal regularly and ask yourself honestly: what have you done to work towards it?”

Finally, it’s essential to remember that career progression doesn’t always mean managing a huge team. Not everyone aspires to reach the c-suite – and that’s okay. Lateral career moves and deepening your specialty as a sole contributor or expert are legitimate ways to advance your career as well. The key factor here is to know what you want and focus on the responsibilities, not only the title.

5. Find your niche

If you have career goals and aspirations to make it in an extremely competitive or crowded space, go for it, but also consider how specialization can help propel you forward. 

If you break into that unknown, find that niche where you can contribute, it can be a competitive differentiator.

Fuchs advises finding a niche. “Travel the road that less people [take] to stand out in a competitive environment. Perhaps look at starting out in a smaller market or take on projects that aren’t as popular or as visible at the beginning. If you break into that unknown, find that niche where you can contribute, it can be a competitive differentiator and help lead you faster to the main role or position that you really want.”

6. Always keep an eye on the horizon

Monitoring and reviewing your long-term goals are key to making good career decisions. Amelia Lestari, Associate Director, Sales and Marking at Michael Page Indonesia says, “Always remember your goals in life and keep a positive point of view to be thankful for what you have. Remind yourself what your goals are, and with the world slowing down right now, use this time to contemplate your path towards them.” 

Zanelli advises that now is the time. “Think strategically – there is no better time to plan your route than in calm waters! When the market bounces back, it will come back strong. If you have a solid plan in your hands, it will be easier to navigate the storm.” 

Productivity and career progression aren’t exact sciences. The best we can do is to be aware of our own unique set of skills, experiences and knowledge and constantly be improving upon those. And then keep an eye out for opportunities to learn and grow – to keep moving towards your goals. 

Related: Maximizing your people-driven business recovery

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