Career Mobility: The Skills We Need
The takeaway from our previous article on career mobility was about how it is relevant to everyone’s career today. And that the best thing we can do is to prepare for career mobility. We need to look at this preparation as an investment in our careers. In this article we elaborate on the skills involved in career mobility.
There are three basic skills needed for career mobility:
- investing time and energy in building a strong network before we need help,
- building on transferable skills that will enable us to be agile when needed, and
- becoming financially literate and building financial stability
Career mobility skill #1: Build a network
You may have probably heard the popular quote: “Your network is your net worth.”
So many of us, even in today’s highly digital and connected world, do not make use of simple tools and strategies available to us for networking. The statements below are common opinions:
- “Networking? No need. I don’t need anything right now. Why bother?”
- “I hate meeting new people!”
- “I am shy, and I don’t know what to talk about.”
Have you ever thought similarly, that networking isn’t for you?
Focus on nurturing past and existing connections
Networking is not only using social media (such as LinkedIn or Facebook), or attending events to connect with new people. Our core network actually consists of the people we’ve met and interacted with in the past.
This could be at work or where we were studying. It could be our bosses, colleagues, customers, and classmates. These are the people who know us best. They have communicated with us, worked with us, and know our strengths and weaknesses. They are the best advocates for who we truly are.
As long as we have been professional, courteous, and supportive, why should we discard all those strong relationships? This is the precious relationship capital that we’ve built over time.
It’s understandable that we all get busy in life. But keeping in touch, investing time and effort to check in on them (maybe once a month or quarter) for their wellbeing and to provide any support that we can offer, is what networking really means.
There’s no point attending conferences and building new relationships if we can’t maintain our existing ones.
Unless our approach to our careers involves transactional relationships (i.e., based purely on need and exchange), doing this should be much easier for all of us. All it takes is some time and effort.
What networking certainly does not involve is connecting and asking for a favour the first time that we interact with someone.
Invest in people and relationships: Gain in the long run
Lokyatha’s founder Arnold Mascarenhas has personally experienced the power of relationships. He shares:
“For every single one of my jobs starting from the third year of my career, it was my network that has helped me navigate my professional journey. It is only because they are so invested in me, that this was possible. I went from casinos to events to media and who knows what next? And remember, this goes both ways; I have had the opportunity to invest back into my network as well. Whether it’s business leads, partnerships, potential job openings, mentoring, introductions or simply to check on them personally every once in a while.”
When we invest in our network long-term, they become invested in our success as well. So when it comes to career mobility, your network is vital.
Authenticity is a key element here. Interactions and relationships cannot be faked. It is not very difficult to detect when we encounter inauthentic engagement. We should earnestly want those in our network to be successful and genuinely work towards it.
(We are building deeper content on ‘networking’ soon. It will cover growing a network and other networking strategies when it is released. Subscribe to Lokyatha to get updates when that comes out.)
Career mobility skill #2: Build transferable skills
A lot of people believe that technical skills and industry domain knowledge are the only things that matter when it comes to being successful. They are certainly important for one’s career.
But individuals who have enabled major transformations and created a dent in a particular space were often outsiders to that industry.
They simply looked at things in a fresh or different way because they were not anchored by history and experience. Sounds hard to believe? Search online for ‘Outsider CEO’ whenever possible.
This is definitely not a sure-shot 100% strategy for CEOs, but the idea behind it is important to acknowledge. Also, it does not only apply for people at the CEO level; even junior-level employees can look at things with fresh perspectives.
(Note: This is another reason to push for diversity in the workplace. We will talk about that some other time.)
We don’t mean to imply that we should ignore industry veterans. Not at all! Simply measuring the value of the vast network and relationships across customers, vendors, and regulators they have built over time is enough to justify that.
Transferable skills are the icing on our career cake
The point we are trying to make here is that beyond the industry-specific skills, there is a world of expertise and capabilities that are relevant no matter what we choose to do. These can help us succeed at work in a different industry or in our personal lives, or even if we start a business.
These skills are called transferable skills. They are skills that can be transferred to another situation or context. Sometimes people call them ‘portable skills’. But we should think of them as our toolkit for both our personal lives and our careers, and especially for career mobility.
Unfortunately, almost none of these skills are taught to us in any academic setting to prepare us for the real world.
Some of these transferable skills include sales, negotiation, written and verbal communication, public speaking, relationship building, commitment and reliability, leadership, project management, customer service, organization, time management, teamwork, and research skills.
This list could go on, but we hope we’ve made our point.
Carry them wherever you go; for life...
Having these capabilities that can be used no matter where we go, is extremely valuable. Lifelong learning is the key to keep growing and improving in these areas. When employers say that candidates are unemployable, they actually are referring to some of these skills.
Imagine a candidate who has the best academic track record and deep technical knowledge. But what use is all that if they are not good at working in a team? Or if they have poor communication skills? Can you predict how well they will do in their careers?
At Lokyatha we have the cheat codes of life, but we certainly won’t pretend to know anything about cars. This image above is of a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Water Speed. Look at that shiny, beautiful engine! But without those wheels, its top speed is zero!
Technical skills may be the engine that push us ahead, but transferable skills are the wheels that take us places.
Career mobility skill #3: Financial literacy
The final skill we need when it comes to being ready for career mobility is that of managing our finances.
As mentioned earlier, our careers may not always involve taking a step towards greater income. Once in a while, we may need to take a step down or sideways. This could result in a lower income. In case we lose a job or desire to take a break or start a business, our income may drop down to zero.
Being financially prepared with tactics and tools such as building an emergency fund, acquiring the right insurance, managing our budgets, long-term financial obligations, and our ongoing cash flow is critical to navigating such situations.
(We have an extended content series on financial literacy that is available here if interested.)
Career mobility is certainly something that we are all bound to experience in today’s world. It is not just something that you may have to do, but can also be something that is challenging and personally meaningful and fulfilling.
Starting to work on the skills involved in career mobility at any stage of our careers is a good decision, as most of them take time and thought.