TPC Leadership Middle East are delving into the topic of workforce engagement. Over this blog series, we interview a number of TPC Leadership’s leading voices to explore their take on what more organisations can be doing to support their workforce and fundamentally improve performance in the Middle East.

In this fourth blog of the series, we talk to Advisory Board member Poonam Pandit, to understand the innovative ways to take ownership of your career. This includes techniques such as a career health check, taking a psychological selfie and utilising inspiring quotes.

“Today we’ll be talking about a topic that’s really close to my heart; owning your career. I work with a lot of professionals at all levels, and they genuinely struggle with understanding what it means to truly own your career. It’s all about encouraging you to become the CEO of your own career, rather than being a backseat driver or letting other people/circumstances push you forward. It isn’t going to be done for you.”

Why is this topic important?

“The most obvious thing about this topic is that we all spend most of our lives working in some shape or form, yet most people I speak to have not had much of an opportunity to own their career. Focusing on the direction that you’re heading can be used as a tool to motivate you, rather than a tool to demotivate you. I like to call it breathing – you have to breathe for yourself as this action cannot be passed on to anyone else. With this mentality, and although it might be scary, suddenly there’s no one else making decisions for you; it’s you making decisions for you. 

Within the span of your career, it is likely to come across change, so setting yourself up to support this is very important. Ensuring you are asking yourselves the right questions is a way to begin owning your career:

  • What actions do I need to take to get to the place that I want to be? 
  • Am I even where I want to be right now? And if not, then what needs to change? 
  • What more could I be doing to be fulfilling my abilities and innovativity?

Once you’ve done this from an individual perspective, it’s also really important to see it from an organisational perspective. Considering the term, Intrapreneur, it’s all about fostering your individual talents within your role and team to encourage change, drive performance and create a competitive edge. Organisations want people who are self aware, who have the drive and take a real personal responsibility for their growth. Owning your career is a win-win for everyone.”

Why do organisations find it challenging?

“When we use the term organisation, there isn’t a one size fits all. So for the purpose of today, I will focus on two versions; corporate organisations and medium sized companies.”

The Corporate

“These are organisations that have well working structures, learning pathways and generally have systems in place with quite a mature model to support people in their career growth within the organisation. 

Although organisations may have the financial security for these structures, they cannot forget that their workforce is under a lot of pressure. With all that is added to a person’s plate, there isn’t enough time given for career development or enough trust given to people to personalise their journey. So making way for this time is a systematic process that needs to be introduced into team timetabling.

Secondly, it is all about prioritising the learning. Leaders have to demonstrate and role model the process of owning one’s career. Almost like a celebration of what can be achieved by connecting the learning to the teams work and the bigger picture of the organisation. 

Another thing that’s challenging at an organisational level is mindset and this needs to come from the top down. What are the organisation’s leaders asking their workforce to focus on? Some organisations focus on getting the job done without giving people the chance to develop and progress. Yes, the ROI might take longer initially, but by investing time and capacity into encouraging the workforce to own their career, it encourages people to work in a way that is cohesive and sustainably impactful for the business.”

The Medium

“Looking at medium sized organisations, these could be family businesses or organisations with offshoots of regional presence – their focus is much more visionary. They’re really looking into how they can be different and set themselves apart. 

Here it is about keeping it simple but effective. From my work I’ve seen leaders struggling on where to place their energy, and of course as companies grow, this only increases. Because of the agile nature of medium sized organisations, they may be lacking a cohesive strategy, as structures are brought in as per growth. It is important for career development to be part of connecting the dots.

And finally, where are organisations putting the money? Budget constraints mean that other things are often prioritised and although money is available, it isn’t placed on workforce engagement or encouraging teams to own their career.”

What is TPC Leadership’s approach to this business issue?

“Have a conversation. Have that conversation with yourself, with someone you trust, with a coach or mentor. And have the conversation within your teams. Break that barrier between where you think you are and where you actually are. 

Looking at this from the individual perspective, one thing I suggest doing is a career health check. Ask yourself, what are your strengths, passions, drivers and what energises you. What environments do you flourish in and where do you struggle. You can start to build a job description for yourself. There’s also a website called  Find My Why which gives you a ‘psychological selfie’. You get a chance to understand your values and what drives you in a business. So as a quick one stop shop, this is a great place to start.”

“If you are sitting in an organisation thinking about this topic, then I would ask you, are you giving people the space to really look at their career and actively manage the career? Is this built into your succession planning?

TPC Leadership is here to support you and your business to drive your workforce forward using a people centric approach. It’s about acknowledging the brain, as well as the heart and co-creating solutions. We acknowledge the emotional cost of what’s going on with your people and look to your organisational culture to drive sustainable performance.”

So what is the main takeaway?

“Trying to simplify and understand what’s happening in your career is not easy. But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take that first step. Take a minute to really understand what your immediate need is: what needs to happen today, or this week, or next week, that will help you move in the direction that you need to go? If you’re a leader in an organisation then the same question applies: what needs to change in your business and how can you support your workforce to implement this change? 

Another technique that I recommend utilises inspiring quotes. Give yourself some time to reflect on a quote that is resonating with you now. Ask yourself why you chose that quote – there is something within it that it is telling you, and you should try to understand it. If you do this over a few months, you may see a pattern with the quotes you choose and what is going on in your career at the time. 

And finally, remember that owning your career is not a buzzword. It’s really important that you make it an integral part of your life and career pipeline so that it’s sustainable and that you are moving consciously in the direction that you want to go.”

If you’d like to hear more about how TPC Leadership can support your organisation to successfully and sustainably engage their workforce, please get in touch.