Creating the career that’s just right for you

woman going through a career change
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By Elizabeth Brennan, UK Industry Client Director at Criteo

Today we’re used to everything being just the way we want it to be.

For example, when we log into our Netflix or Spotify all our favourite shows and artists are right there in front of us. The same goes for our news and the apps on our phone – everything is customised to our wants and needs.

But when it comes to work, all too often this isn’t the case. Our roles and responsibilities are defined by historic descriptions and legacy needs as opposed to our skillset or unique career aspirations. When you consider that we will spend over 90,000 hours of our lives at work, the idea that we can’t control what that role looks like starts to sound ridiculous.

But the times they are a changin’ and now, more so than ever before, we’re able to take control of our working lives. Today you can challenge the status quo, redefine how things are done and think about the challenges you want to take on. In short, you can make any role what you want it to be. The time of being defined and restrained by a job description is over and it’s up to each one of us to embrace this change and start to ask ourselves what we really want to get out of a job.

Even the route to progress is less linear than it has been traditionally and opportunities for personal development are everywhere – whether it be in the form of a secondment, mentorship, volunteer work or any number of workplace initiatives designed to diversify and expand the talent pool. If your business doesn’t have some of these schemes in place formally, ask or start to build them yourself! Asking for the things that you want is essential to finding happiness and satisfaction in your career.

At Criteo I’m fortunate to have a role that I’ve been able to shape around my skills and aspirations. I’ve added responsibilities and lines of reportage from across the business that has enabled me to sculpt a position that otherwise wouldn’t exist (at least not in its current guise). As a result, I’m happier and more challenged by my position knowing that it’s evolved around me, tailored to my skills and helping me get to where I want to go in the company.

If you’re looking to shape your role as opposed to being shaped by it, here are a few tips:

Put goals in place

Knowing what your end goal is helps you build a plan to get the job you want. While it can be tricky understanding what you want to be doing career-wise in five or ten years’ time, setting achievable, short-term goals will help you hit that big career milestone. When putting together your objectives make sure they are measurable (for you and the for business) and keep to a pattern of reviewing progress every six months to ensure ambition is aligned with the reality of your daily to do list. Of course, flexibility and adaptability are key skills too, but knowing where you are trying to get to and means a positive career step is much more likely.

Be curious and get out there

Take the time to speak to peers internally and from the wider industry because you might find that the job that would really motivate you simply isn’t on your radar yet. When networking, take the time to understand their job role and, crucially, assess whether there are elements that you would enjoy. Remember, just because something isn’t part of your remit traditionally doesn’t mean you can’t make it your responsibility if it’s something you think you’ll enjoy and thrive at. Whatever it is, don’t be put off by a knowledge or skills gap. Instead put a plan in place for how you are going to address any holes in your experience and start taking control of your own development.

Don’t be afraid

If you make a career decision that doesn’t work out for you, know that it’s OK.  You will have learnt something along the way that is highly likely to prove useful later down the line. Don’t beat yourself up, decide whether there is any value in staying in that role based on the skills and knowledge you can gain, how long you can stay in that role and then make a plan on how you will make a more suitable move.

We’re living in a customisable world so don’t settle for anything less in your career. You’re not the person who did your job before you and so shouldn’t be simply filling their shoes and picking up right where they left off. Your skills, perspective and motivations should be helping you to create a totally new role, one that’s just right for you. By doing this you’ll find that you’ll not only do a better job but enjoy it a lot more too!

Elizabeth BrennanAbout the author

Elizabeth Brennan is UK Industry Client Director at Criteo, the advertising platform for the open Internet.  With nearly a decade of experience in digital advertising, Elizabeth worked initially in paid search before moving into planning and account management.  She is a champion of women in business and a strong believer in the power of mentoring. A graduate of The University of Reading, Elizabeth is a former winner of the prestigious NABS Fast Forward award and has gone on to achieve Code First certification as part of the organisation’s initiative to increase the number of women in tech.

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