Three big professional questions for planning your growth

career strategy caring enjoying work expert innovation process partner career path professional challenges Mar 12, 2024

If you're curious enough, every phase of professional life is an exploration. I still have friends in their 70s working hard on their next endeavour, not in fear but because learning and action keep you engaged in living. 

It doesn't have to be complicated. In many of my most telling coaching conversations, we have found it useful (for both of us) to reflect on three questions that are relevant to any professional and point towards new futures. By going beneath what we take for granted, our standard answers, we uncover powerful initiatives.

  1. Who do you really care for through your professional endeavours?

    As we grow, our circle of care expands. At a survival level, you try to care for yourself, but as an experienced partner, you can see that by caring for your clients, you care for their clients. If you're helping a hospital become more efficient, you're affecting every employee and every patient (and their families).

    A clue to your next direction of growth is that you become more interested in who sits at the end-point effect of your work and realise you'd like your work to focus differently. Perhaps you now want to concentrate on a neglected subgroup of people you identify with more closely, or you want to continue helping the same group, but more globally.

    Who could you focus on caring for better?

  2. What are your complex talents?

    Experience develops complex bundles of skills. Where once you learnt to present well, now you'd say it's important to influence a sceptical audience, which entails more than presentation skills. You not only handle client projects well but you use them to embed capability in your clients, help your junior colleagues serve clients better and develop innovative ideas.

    These talents don't yield well to simple titles, yet those who know you value them. So ask them: 'what do I do that makes the biggest difference?' 'What do you admire about how I handle difficult situations'. They'll tell you in their own words, which you may have to decode, but these answers will give you confidence to grow in your best direction.

    What talents could you hone and make more available?

  3. What's the best way to deliver my capabilities?

    Professional firms design their firm-wide delivery processes such as project management, advice panels, training processes or crisis response teams. You've grown up in this environment and become adept at some of these processes. However, if you open up your approach to delivering your professional expertise, you can find novel ways to have an impact.

    There are several ways we deliver. We add capabilities the client does not have. We substitute temporarily during challenging times. We enable the client to do what we do. Or we sit with the client not knowing what to do, but with a way of developing a solution.

    In mid-career, one of the transition signals is boredom. Perhaps you want to get out of the detailed transactions and be an advisor or coach. When you open up the delivery process to find a way of engaging that energises and excites you, many avenues for growth open up. This doesn't mean you need to leave, but rather suggests ways you can innovate on how the whole firm works.

    How could you deliver your talents differently?


These questions are worth reflecting on at any time, as they help us navigate our sense of purpose and motivation as we change and as the world changes. They are central to being adaptive - and to continuously developing a fulfilling career.

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