Today’s high performers are about more than earning the most or having the fanciest job title.
They’re about “hacking” the traditional ways of developing a career so that as the years go by, they achieve greater and greater fulfillment. Not just at retirement, but RIGHT NOW. They understand that we live in a moment in time where you can truly call the shots, and they’re willing to break the rules (at least a little) to make that happen.
So let’s go through some of the counterintuitive moves they’re making to pull ahead:
1) They go “T-Shaped” Not “I-Shaped” with their Careers.
An “I-shaped” career used to be the old way of rising to the top quickly: become an absolute specialist in 1 thing. Monopolize a talent.
But with disruption becoming the new norm, it’s essential to also bring a broader skill set to the table, so that you can roll with the punches and collaborate effectively between different business functions and ideologies.
So- ask yourself what your “1 thing” might be. What’s your calling card, your unique domain of expertise? This is what you’ll want to use as the basis of your career platform, including the Resume and LinkedIn Profile, because it instantly establishes credibility.
Now ask yourself- what skills can I develop that would CREATIVELY ADD VALUE to my “1 thing” and help me stand out? For example, if you’re a leader in software engineering, making a pivot to the product management side of things can add massively to your worth in the eyes of future employers…and make it very difficult to compare and contrast you versus others. This is the beauty of going “T-shaped.”
2) Their Ultimate Loyalty is to Themselves (and their Loved Ones).
Look: I am definitely not advocating for being a complete mercenary when it comes to your career. Ideally, you SHOULD feel a sense of purpose in what you’re doing, and the people you’re doing it with. The key difference is that a high performer never places that above what’s best for his or her career.
Which means: in most cases, they move on every 3-5 years. Not because they’re disloyal, but because they understand that this is simply the most expedient way to grow and capitalize on increasing earning power (some studies estimate that you’re leaving at least 7% in additional salary on the table for every additional year you spend with your present employer).
Ask yourself: how quickly am I growing with my current employer? Is there a clear path forward, and am I making meaningful strides towards it? If the answer is “No” then it’s time to place your needs #1 again and start pursuing some new opportunities.
3) They Find Balance in the Journey (not just in Retirement).
A Fortune 500 company with massive stability, or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants start-up that lets you flex your muscles in a different way? Pursuing a path of ever greater leadership and management, or pivoting towards becoming a consultant or individual contributor? Sabbaticals. “Mini-retirements” used for things like world travel or raising young children. High performers are taking advantage of the larger move towards remote work to boldly experiment with work-life balance. The message is clear: we can’t wait until retirement age to focus on the other key aspects of our lives. It’s ok to switch it up, even radically, on the professional front, if it greater fulfillment in the long-term.
One more thing: high performers are always developing their networking and influencing skills, REGARDLESS of what industry they’re in.