Have you come up with any worthy New Years’ resolutions yet? Are they already broken? If not, or if so, relax and stay positive. It’s never too late to make a few career-focused resolutions. I’ll be bold and propose that 2016 be the year to resolve to take charge of your career, your destiny and your life story. If it sounds like a real stretch, it is. I’m encouraging everyone to take action. Take heart, though – like all resolutions it’s a process, a combination of problem identification, ideas/ideation, search for solutions, and actions. Resolutions aren’t absolutely binding, so it’s not a mental trap; it’s an opportunity to allow yourself to consider what’s been holding you back, what you’re really interested in doing/being, and how to move in the right direction.
Why is this important? Why now? Because the world of work is changing, and changing fast. If you want to have a career, not just a job, you’ll need to be prepared to change as well. We’re not talking who-moved-my-cheese here: we’re talking being the maker of cheese. It’s a weird analogy, maybe, but it gets at the central challenge we all face as we work to stay ahead in our careers in times of rapid innovation and change.
When I began my career, the most important things were mastery (education and experience), talent, work ethic, character, intelligence and flexibility. Today it’s different and it’s exciting and it’s challenging and it’s never going to be the same. Those factors are still critical, but they’ve been disrupted by the forces of social connectedness, communication, and collaboration.
Here are five ways to innovate in your career – think of this as part 1 for formulating career resolutions to put you back in control of your most passionate destiny. Why wait?
1) Become a social connector of people, ideas and intent. People who are connectors have immense power in their social networks. They’re the glue. Connectors are the new Oracles (Delphi-style, not Redwood Shores style), the passionate influencers who create trends, create links and create awesome relationships. Becoming a connector is the best way to manage the forces of connectedness in our hyperconnected world. Live the brand.
2) Master effective communications. Even connectors aren’t necessarily good communicators. Among the skills you’ll need are empathy, self-awareness, curiosity, patience, the ability to really listen, and care. Superb communicators often say the least; they draw out others and create an environment (aka Culture) which allows the exchange of ideas and lots of them if necessary. And don’t forget to apply your skills via social media, which can be tricky indeed – we’ve all sent emails we regretted or posted something awkward or too personal on social sites. Live the brand.
3) Collaborate. It sounds odd but collaboration skills are a competitive differentiator. We’re used to thinking people who are fierce competitors have the advantage; my take is collaborators now have the edge. Being a collaborator doesn’t mean you opt out of being competitive; it means you understand the limits of competition. It can be hard to be intensely competitive while being productive in most organizations. Live the brand.
4) Create and manage your personal brand. I know a lot of people who’ve resisted this step, or found themselves blocked somehow. Don’t wait any longer. People with brands (as others have pointed out) simplify what they represent; they weed out the irrelevant bits of their lives or skill sets and focus in on a few key, career-value-based attributes. Some people would even argue that brand now trumps intelligence, experience and talent, which is a scary thought for some people I’ve talked to about careers. Live the brand.
5) Curate everything. Relationships, acquaintances, work product, books, tech tools, clothes, skills; anything that touches your work life or career space. Be a relentless editor of your skills and experiences. Curation is an expression of good judgment, not evidence of controlling behavior. Curating the right career experiences will help you push forward in your career without compromising yourself. Live the brand.
I will be digging deeper into connectedness, communication and collaboration in the next few months. If you’ve thought about what they mean to you, and how they’ll help you innovate and create career resolutions, please let me know. It’s a journey everyone in this globally connected world is on right now. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com 1/6/2013