We live in a Vuca world, a world where conditions and situations can be volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The boss who sets the targets may leave mid-way and the year-end performance is reviewed by a new boss, or the key targets set at the start of the year may become redundant as the organization faces new and unexpected challenges, or the company might get acquired by another company. In such turbulent times, “the risk of becoming redundant and the need to reinvent one’s career suddenly becomes very real and one cannot depend on one’s employer to solve the crisis in such situations”, writes career and executive coach Luis Moniz in his new book Uncornered: Learnings From The Corner Office.
In an email interview, Moniz explains the importance of being “uncornered” and how to take charge of our career. Edited excerpts:
What’s the “uncornered” concept?
It is a word coined by me. In a career context, it is defined as remaining agile by building credentials for your possible next roles through continuous learning and delivering your best performance. The best way to stay “uncornered” is to think two steps ahead when making a move and analyse the possible roles that you could move to, after spending a few years in your upcoming role. When you keep these possible next roles in mind, you will automatically focus on building credentials that are needed for those roles and be well positioned to make the move after a couple of years.
How important is career agility in the turbulent world we live in?
There are too many factors that have an impact on our careers, which are beyond our control in this turbulent world. Our bosses may leave suddenly or our employer may be acquired by a competitor or face severe disruptions in the market or worse still the prospects for the profession we are in may disappear due to a new disruptive technology.
We, therefore, cannot be dependent on anyone else or on our employers to move up the career ladder. We will still need a team to deliver the performance expected of us and have to collaborate with colleagues to achieve our success. However, we have no option but to take complete charge of our careers and build as much flexibility in our professional credentials as possible. This will enable us to be agile enough to change quickly and thus bypass the career roadblocks.
The book talks about the mindset as being a vital factor in achieving success.
In the pre-turbulence era, most employees were primarily dependent on their bosses to make progress in their careers. However, it is well recognized that this approach is no longer effective today. The whole notion of entitlement for an increment or a promotion has completely disappeared in today’s workplace. It has become essential to recognize that managing our careers is not our boss’ or the organization’s responsibility; it is solely ours. The employment relationship is purely contractual where we fulfil our part of the contract and the organization fulfils its part, without passing any judgement on the rights and wrongs of such a relationship. Therefore, each of us needs to adopt a mindset where we take charge of our careers and find meaningful contractual assignments with organizations that enable us to achieve our aspirations.
You say that one cannot achieve success on their own and need the support of others, both at work and outside. Who are these enablers and how do they help?
External enablers to achieve career success are mainly people-related—our team at work, peers, senior-level stakeholders, our mentors and coaches, key family members and our network of professional relationships. The most important people-related enabler is having a talented team to support our initiatives to deliver superior performance. Constant learning through various methods will enable us to stay up-to-date and relevant in a fast-changing world.
Passion for a role or a sector could change over time, and a proactive change in career direction could mean compromising on pay and position. Is this change a good idea?
It is difficult to achieve superior success consistently over a long period in an area that we are no longer passionate about. There is a high probability of our careers getting into a downward spiral if we are not enjoying our work. A proactive change in career direction to an area that we are more passionate about may require us to make a compromise in terms of compensation or position, or even both.
However, we will not take very long to build our track record and reputation in the new area since we will be energized to be successful in a passion area. Therefore, any compromise will only be short-term and we will more than make up in the longer term.