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Can you manage the three eras of your career? Prepare to fail if you can’t

Are you looking to build a long-term plan to help you develop professionally over a lifetime? Then read on

There are three eras of your professional career (in age terms, your 20s, 30s and then 40s and beyond). You must learn to manage these eras if you want to achieve success in your field.

Follow patterns

Kathy Gallo, Founder and Managing Partner of the Goodstone Group, has mentored business professionals for over 20 years. She says that whilst everyone must build their own plan over time, you can learn from patterns as to how winning professionals manage their careers.

They focus on three leadership competencies: problem-solving, executional capabilities, and people skills. Emotional intelligence is particularly important. Context (an awareness of your organisation’s culture) is also essential. Great performers work on all of these in every era of their careers.

It’s different today

It’s important to remember that it’s different now to 10 years ago. Professional development has moved on, and it has had to. Gallo says that the best jobs are far more competitive, with 20 or so highly qualified people targeting every good position.

The most successful candidates are those who are constantly improving themselves throughout their careers. At each stage, they are working to understand more about themselves and their goals, and to develop the knowledge and skills needed to achieve them.

Your 20s: building awareness and competence

Early on in your career, you’re learning what success in a potential career is going to take, as well as assessing your assets and gaps in your ability. The average performer stumbles through this era, with trial and error.

The top professionals are much more intentional. Rising stars continually clarify expectations. They constantly seek feedback from supervisors and even other colleagues. They develop a picture of success, then go after it.

Your 30s: Rounding out your skill set

In your 30s, you’re now established in at least one of the three leadership competencies. You’re also clearer about your aspirations and exactly what it will take to get there. You develop plans to make use of your strengths, whilst also addressing your particular shortcomings.

This middle phase is often the time when most professionals start to strengthen their EQ (emotional intelligence). They may be shocked to learn whilst being evaluated that they have a reputation for being difficult or communicating poorly. It can be a wake-up call, but the best performers are those who listen carefully to criticisms and work on them

Your 40s (and beyond): continuing self-improvement

Successful professionals don’t just rest on their laurels. They continue to self-improve, seeking out new assignments, different experiences and generally looking for ways in which to improve their knowledge and skills.

But, as Gallo cautions, they now face a different set of challenges. Accomplished leaders face greater pressure to create impact. They have to inspire talent, and excite and align stakeholders more effectively than ever before. What’s more, senior figures today must have some level of charisma. And not just CEOs – this applies to everyone on their way to the top.

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