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Key Career Moments that Determine your Future & Drive Results

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In your professional journey, you experience key career moments that impact your direction and focus. To gain more control over your professional future, try viewing your career as comprised of two elements: these key career moments, and all of the work you do in-between. The important realization is that key events generate the content and quality of your work.

Some key career moments are predictable and others happen spontaneously, turning out in retrospect to be pivotal moments on your professional journey. These key events can last a few seconds, a minute, an hour or a few days. Let’s describe the types of career moments you’ll encounter":

The Four Types of Key Career Moment

Type 1: Transactions: Job interviews, performance reviews, negotiations, signing a big client

The most recognizable form of key career moment is the transaction point; a job interview, performance review, promotion conversation and negotiation. Or the key conversation with a boss, investor or major client that has a transaction attached as an outcome. The opportunity to take on new work, a bigger role or a breakthrough contract for your services.

For most professionals, these transactions tend to occur every three years or so and impact and influence your future trajectory, income and opportunity scope.

Type 2: Forks in the road: Decision points about this or that opportunity and different directions

Decision points are like forks in the road, situations where you must decide yes or no, this or that direction. Decisions around whether or not to pursue a project, engage in a professional development path, or say yes to an opportunity presented to you.

The effects of your decision making process and skills are long lasting. Bad decisions result in lost time, misery and sometimes damage to your reputation. And conversely, decisions that align with your professional identity can result in better outcomes.

Type 3: Encounters: Exposure and learning from people, information and ideas

Less obvious and potentially more impactful are the encounters along the road of your professional journey. You meet people and encounter ideas that inspire or provide insights. Conversations with mentors, a headhunter or a key person in your network. A piece of news, a book, speech or quote that creates a spark in your thinking.

The currency of the encounter is ideas, feedback, insights and inspiration. The effects of these encounters can dissipate quickly or be profound and lasting depending on how you embrace the encounter and do something with what you have learned.

Type 4: Crisis & Adventure: Forced events that impact your career and the key opportunities to perform under a spotlight

Finally, you experience adventures and crises along the road of your professional journey. A crisis can include forced job loss, losing a strong internal champion, significant shifts in your business or with an employer and a change in the marketplace that makes your skills or expertise less in demand. An adventure can include delivery of a pivotal presentation, project, pitch or a product or landing a really big client.

By definition, crises and adventures are extra-ordinary events and how well we have prepared determines the impact of the event.

Managing Your Key Career Moments

What is the potential impact of these key career moments, in isolation and cumulatively? Career moments determine how you will be spending your time in the coming weeks, months and years and they can leave a lasting legacy on your resume.

Four Strategies that Drive Results

Prepare For Career Success

Are you interested in more control over your professional journey? Want to unlock your career potential? Could you use more resilience in the face of events that impact your career?

How do you prepare for and take advantage of these key career moments?

Using four strategies to optimize the potential of career moments, and as a result, create more success and resilience in your professional life. They are;

  1. Develop your Market Readiness

  2. Build your Market Power

  3. Develop Situational Awareness

  4. Be a Generator of Positive Key Career Moments

Strategy 1: Develop your Market Readiness

When it comes to career transactions, key decisions, and network interactions, there is a set of skills, awareness and knowledge that make you more or less effective. I developed a framework called Market Readiness and it includes self and market awareness, and your level of skill and effectiveness in personal branding, interviewing and network development.

When you think about it, its shocking that someone at mid-career might not have a firm grasp of their strengths, understand how to structure a compelling resume or be confident in their ability to navigate a structured interview. Two areas of note:

Understand Your Professional Value

Self-awareness is key. Your ability to intentionally set directions, sell yourself into new opportunities, or make a good decision about your career are a function of your self-awareness. Invest the time to gain clarity (and confidence) from understanding your professional offering, purpose and market.

Develop your market skills

When it comes to the inevitable transaction points in your career, most key career moments are foreseeable and have an element of skill attached to them. The problem is that like buying a house or a car, we only engage in these kinds of events a few times in our life. You need to intentionally build your skills for the predictable career moments in order to get the most from these events.

Strategy 2: Build your Market Power

Your degrees of freedom in a specific key career moment - your ability to choose, to say yes or no, to have negotiation power, to have access to more influential people, are a result. A result of all of the upstream work you’ve done to build a track record, an in-demand set of skills and expertise, a body of work, reputation, network, and influence.

Market power helps you avoid that awful feeling of hanging on, of not having a choice, of pursuing what feels safe vs. what is right for you.

Strategy 3: Develop Situational Awareness

Situational awareness involves knowing that there is a potential key career moment in front of you and taking action to take full advantage of the moment.

Know when to over prepare

There are times when you need to go all out. You do not want to miss your shot. If there is a key, upcoming event that has the possibility of doing great things for your career, or sinking your career if you do poorly, work accordingly.

Learn how to ask

There are conversations you will have where you need to seize the opportunity and ask quality questions or ask for what you want. It may be feedback, information, assignment to a key project or a promotion. Or, it may be a referral or request for information. Don’t let a potential career moment pass you by because you were passive.

Learn how to say no

Saying yes to the wrong thing is a very common trap and can cost you years of your working life, or at least time, energy and attention on the wrong thing. Avoid saying yes to the wrong job, the wrong company, the wrong project or a direction that doesn’t fit with your plans or who you are. Your ability to say no is a result of your market power and your level of self-awareness.

Strategy 4: Be a Net Generator of Positive Key Events

When it comes to encounters and adventures and some forms of career transactions, more is better. More exposure to ideas, relationships, insights and opportunities to shine. 

You have the power to generate and create more of these key events.

This week, for example, you could find ways to 5x your exposure to positive encounters by increasing your commitment to reach out to and meet people, consume more and better information and ideas and intentionally improve your retention, learning and follow-up from these encounters.

The more you are interacting, engaging and taking proactive actions to market yourself, create something new, serve the community, start a business, or express an opinion, the more likely you are to create more of these key, positive career events.

Ultimately, your professional journey is shaped by just a few decisions, conversations and actions.

Gain more control over your journey by understanding this concept and learning how to get the most benefit from these moments. Even better, embrace the idea that you have a large degree of control over creating your own key career moments.

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