There are always going to be choices you’ll have to make about your career, no matter where you are in it. Some of those choices will be easy, others difficult and intimidating. There are key things you should think about which apply to you whether you work for yourself or someone else. Sometimes your team-mates are in the same organisation as you, sometimes not.
Being able to see when you’re being relied upon as part of a team is critical to allowing those around you to get the most value from your skills. It’s when you become known for your talents, and that’s when you can become truly successful.
Recently in a discussion with Steve Wood from Roaring Success, we had a chat about career strategies which are important whether you are at the start of your career or well into it.
Get good at something
“No matter your discipline, you must get good at something, and this is easiest to focus on within your discipline.” He adds that if you’re not good at it, it’s probably painful, hard and you’ll always be trying to catch up, so make sure you really enjoy what you do. It’s important to acknowledge that this is often the point where a lot of people might feel stuck because they don’t feel that they know what they want to do. What should those people do?
This not the time to avoid making early career decisions, it’s important to put 100% into trying something, even if you discover you definitely don’t like it afterwards. “Over time you will discover what you like, you’ll naturally gravitate towards what you like and are good at.” Steve is supporter of goal setting, and self discovery is one important early professional goal you should have.
Personal note from the author
When I finished high school and put my university selections in, they were focussed on property valuation. I got an assistant job in a property valuation firm, they were good to me and gave me as much exposure to property valuation as they could give an unqualified person. After a year it was clear, property valuation was not a career I wanted to pursue, I used that new knowledge to shift my career focus elsewhere. I am glad I spent that time making the discovery about my unsuitability for a particular industry, and I thank that company for giving me a go and letting me speed up my professional self-discovery.
Technical skills, a means to an end
Once you begin working, you’ll eventually find yourself in a team where you’re a technical specialist. Technical isn’t a label for engineering work, it’s any kind of specialised work, marketing, accounting, legal, medical, IT or any other. Steve mentioned “You need to be able to adapt from being a technical expert to being able to work effectively in a team.” You should aim to “be known as a go-to person for a given thing.”
It’s important to get good at something so you can add value, and equally important to remember this value cannot exist in a vacuum. This value happens in the context of some form of team. A specialist with poor team-work and communication skills will not go very far.
Steve would recommend any professional put two key considerations in front of mind as they travel through their career:
- Get really good at something, and become known for it.
- Think about how you can add the most value to the teams you’re in, reflect on your experiences (especially your mistakes) to improve how you contribute to those teams.
Your team multiplies your value
The important thing when you’re good at something is that it’s easy to combine that with the talents of others in your team. When your fantastic skills are being combined with others equally good but diverse skills, this is where team synergies are possible. The saying “one plus one equals three” has its origins here.
“When an important opportunity comes up, who’s the boss going to pick? The A team.” He adds that the only way a B or C class person would get a chance is if the A team is busy or makes a big mistake. You might think this is a harsh way of the boss looking at his or her team members, you need to be mindful of what outcomes they are responsible for. The important thing to them is that their team is effective at whatever it’s responsible for completing and that it won’t be complicated for them to get needed outcomes from their team.
- Poor teamwork can easily give the boss a set of problems they wish they didn’t have.
Steve summarised with “All this circles back to get really good at something, find opportunities to hone and demonstrate those skills.” Remember that good teamwork happens with effective people working together, not alone.
He believes the three most important skills for a project team to succeed are:
- Technical (notice how technical is last?)
To be continued..
While its important to make sure you’re able to work well in teams, it’s also important you get the recognition you deserve for your work. How do you ensure that you get the proper recognition for the skills you’ve worked so hard to develop?
Without a shared sense of fairness in teams, good teamwork can break down. In the next blog we discuss how you can ensure you are recognised fairly for the work you contribute in a way that doesn’t make you look like a show-off.