A recent report suggests that CFOs consider that young consulting and finance professionals don’t plan their long-term career properly.
But are careers better for being carefully constructed at the outset or is an element of serendipity important?
Have you noticed that when very successful senior people talk about their career they often say the same things?
1. Someone – usually a parent or close relative – said or acted in a way that spurred them on
• “My father told me that there was nothing a man could do that a woman couldn’t”
• “My mother wasn’t allowed to go to university”
• “I didn’t want to end up like my dad”
2. They remember a teacher or other adult authority figure who inspired them, supported them or simply stopped them from throwing away an opportunity.
3. They recall a particularly demanding manager who frustrated them, and reminds them how not to behave now that they are the boss
4. They believe it is ok to make mistakes; but to learn from them. And ‘fessing up is the only way forward!
4. They acquire and very much value a mentor
5. They admit they didn’t have a plan; it “just happened”.
These comments are crucially important because they evidence the self-awareness and “common touch” that is pivotal to senior level success.
However, the reality is probably somewhere in between; success didn’t really “just happen”. The person worked hard, raised their profile, found themselves “in the right place at the right time” and acted on it by taking up a challenge; be that a move to a role they are not sure they were fully qualified for, a significant relocation or cultural change, or investment in a new qualification or technical specialism.
All successful people mention the how important support, sponsorship and teamwork have been; that they are keen to “give back” by championing others coming up the ranks, and that they have learnt the value of personal reward beyond the financial or hierarchical.
Do you agree? If not, why? What is your experience?