Want to thrive in management? Train your brain like this


There are seven ways to make your brain fit for a great career, write Paul Gibbons and Tim Ragan

The 21st century has seen a lot of research on mindset. Unsurprisingly, how we think about things determines the results we produce. While the right mindset is no guarantee of short-term results, over the long term “getting your head right” will produce lifelong benefits. These are the most important aspects of the career mindset:

1. Career versus job. Many people, including some authors, use career and job interchangeably. Or use career somewhat more broadly to designate a family of jobs (as in engineering career), or a sector of the economy (such as a career in healthcare). We use the word very differently – to describe the portfolio of productive activities over an entire lifetime, and the development that goes into making those possible. Whatever your job, you need to constantly be thinking of your career, and what the next year (or five-, 10- and 20-year) milestones might be. Further, you have to be developing yourself with those milestones and objectives in mind.

2. The constructed versus the accidental career. We believe that careers can be constructed mindfully, that we can use a foundation of self-knowledge, and the employment marketplace to design the working life that we want. This doesn’t mean that we ignore serendipity, or refuse to consider opportunities that we had not foreseen. A yachtsman may adjust his course for shifting winds and tides, but always begins with a destination in mind.

3. Lifelong learning. The skills required to stay at the top of one’s game are changing rapidly, whether your formal education stopped with community college, a four-year degree, an MBA, or PhD, you must continue to avail yourself of MOOCs, online short-courses, the latest books, and online learning forums.

4. Perseverance pays. It has been said that ‘overnight success’ takes about fifteen years! When we look upon the world of rockstar business people, entrepreneurs, writers, or sportspeople, we see but a snapshot of our lives that can give the impression that they arrived there in an instant. The career mindset views the world of work as a marathon, not a sprint.

5. Develop a growth mindset. The growth mindset approaches new challenges with the mindset “of a grower, not a knower”. The thought “I can’t do this” is replaced by the thought “I can’t do this yet, here is an opportunity to learn”. In the world of careers and work, there is no place for unhelpful stories such as “I am not good at presenting” which limit possibilities for growth and achievement.

6. Habits help. Aristotle said that we become what we routinely practise. Having great personal habits, such as keeping up with professional reading, strategically planning one’s time, maintaining one’s health, cultivating professional relationships, means that our professional capabilities are ever on an upwards trajectory.

7. Maintain an online brand. Today more than just resumes matter. Your LinkedIn and other professional profiles are seen many times a week, and making a positive impression there can open up new opportunities for you. Leveraging social media to propagate your passions and contributions is increasingly becoming a mainstream activity for those serious about their professional development.

Paul Gibbons and Tim Ragan are the authors of The Science of Organizational Change, and of Reboot Your Career (which will be released this summer). See his website www.paulgibbons.net for information on keynote speaking, or consulting services. Or follow him on Facebook or Twitter (@paulggibbons)