What would you do if 90 per cent of the world's population died from a flu virus and you were one of only a handful of survivors?
No, I am not talking about our pandemic flu policies or contingency plans. I am talking about the TV series Survivors. What role would you play in that type of cataclysmic scenario? What skills do you have that you could apply to this new way of living? Would you find hidden depths, talents, strength, energy and drive? Would you take control - and be the architect of your own destiny?
I posed these questions recently at a conference on career development. Why wait for something dreadful to happen before you reflect on and change how you act, manage or develop your career? Take control of your career development now.
Do you recognise any of these favourite career strategies:
work hard and keep your head down;
trust your employer to manage your career;
jump ship at the first sign of trouble;
pursue only advertised jobs.
With the number and variety of careers in the NHS and wider healthcare sector, coupled with the economic downturn, these strategies are not going to work anymore.
Think "career awareness". Focus on your skills, values and motivations and work out what your present or next employer needs. In other words, future-proof your career. Recent research identified that one way to move on up in your career is to "be happy at work". Happiness is infectious and energises you and others.
Think "networking". Everyone networks - but some do it better than others. Networking is about receiving and giving. Most people do not like doing it and see it as a necessary evil in developing their career. See it, rather, as a helpful tool to achieve your goals. If you put energy, time and commitment into it, you will get a lot more out of it.
Think "influencing people around me". Who are the key stakeholders, blockers and drivers in your career? How are you perceived and how do you perceive others? I always smile when I hear this quote from Body Shop founder Anita Roddick: "If you think that you're too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito". How true that is. In terms of career development, be positive, be strong and play the long game. Quick wins are useful, but sustained, fabulous career development will only work if you are in for the long haul and have clear goals and aspirations.
Think "confidence": a very personal and complex factor. How do you strike that balance of being confident, but not appearing over-confident? How do you know that a job is right for you? Years ago, as a young, newly qualified HR manager going for a much more senior role, I remember a headhunter saying to me "the ideal next role is where you are comfortable with 70 per cent of the role, but are scared of the other 30 per cent". So 60:40 or more and you need to think - is it the right role for you right now? And at 80:20 it is definitely not the right role, as you will get bored and distracted.
Remember: you are the architect of your own destiny.