How do you go for gold in your career? Are you a Usain Bolt, sprinting towards your goal, or do you take things at a more relaxed pace?
We are in the throes of Olympic fever. Thousands of us are flocking to Olympic venues every day, eager to get a glimpse of an aerodynamic cycle helmet whizzing by, horses’ hooves kicking up sand and sails battling it out in the water.
We’ve been screaming with joy, shouting in frustration and weeping into our super-sized cups of Olympic-sanctioned beverages.
So which athlete do you take after in your career strategy? Are fastest out of the blocks or playing the long game to get to where you want to be?
Are you the career equivalent of Mr Usain Bolt? Have you left others for dust and zipped to the top in record timing?
There are ways and means of pin-pointing you. You love being the centre of attention and thrive on the thrill and chase of hunting down a new account or closing a deal. You’re pretty damn cocksure, like The Bolt-ster - if you were on a starting line you’d be pulling some pretty impressive signature moves. Let’s face it, you are probably in sales.
But while the sprinters on the track find their advantage in power, being a career sprinter can be more of a tactical affair. “If you are shrewd there are certain sectors in which you can achieve a career sprint,” says Yvonne Smyth, director at Hays, a leading recruiting expert. “If you look at in-demand skills in the sector you wish to work and train up in them, you can accelerate faster than your peers.”
If you are brilliant with clients and quickly collect a bursting contacts book, you can get all of the success and glory of the 100m final.
Just be careful not to burn out.
Most likely to find you in: Sales or recruitment
The marathon runner
In certain industries and organisations in which your progression can seem more like a marathon. You work hard to put the ground work in, keep up your stamina, and through sheer resilience get to where you want eventually.
Chances are you are not a massive fan of change. You like to keep a steady pace and are quite happy waiting it out in the same company for quite some time to get to the top. You don’t like the feeling of being out of your depth and always like to have a clear schedule in front of you - ideally for the whole year.
“In some organisations and sectors, with experience comes an assumption of age. There are certain clients that expect you to have a certain number of years behind you before appearing before them. This can often be the case in professional services, in which there are rigid structures and certain gates to progress through.”
The older-style business culture that favoured marathon careers is being eroded in many industries, making this kind of career less of a necessity for many. Whether you need to wait it out your dream promotion the full length of the marathon now depends on the hierarchical nature of the company.
“In the old world (before the .com age) there was an element of needing a big of grey hair to prove you’ve gone the distance with senior people look to recruit in their own image,” explains Smyth. “Things have changed. [Now] if you have the idea and the energy to generate revenue, you will not be left slogging to get round the first corner for long.”
Most likely to find you in: Law, accountancy, medicine
The pole vaulter
You are a creation of the digital era. It used to be a rare occurrence that workers were catapulted from zero to hero overnight, but now it happens quite regularly.
Mark Zuckerberg is the ultimate example of a pole vaulter. Still in college when he started, his career as skipped the maturing process and flipped him straight into the driving seat of one of the world’s best-known companies. Not a silver hair in sight.
You are a big risk taker because you chase those high rewards. If you’re not a plucky tech entrepreneur, replete with black rimmed glasses and one really good idea, you’re probably a trader. The trading floor can make or break someone in seconds, and you have to have nerves of steel. It’s high up there at the top of that jump that you could lose it all in a moment.
Most likely to find you in: Technology, finance
The triple jumper
You have more of a segmented career, punctuated with jumps. It’s all about tactical moves at the right time to build your CV and land on the last jump, exactly where you want to be. It’s about being bold and making the right step at precisely the right time and place.
There’s a high chance you work in PR or marketing, where the average stint in any job is only a couple of years. You make swift and powerful leaps in your career and are decisive in the steps you take, landing with familiar aplomb into the next sandpit.
“We have seen increasingly across the board that in the contract between the employer and the employee, the latter says, ‘I give you X, what do you give me?’ We see much more savvy workers for whom loyalty isn’t rewarded. A generation ago loyalty would have been a sought-out trait,” says Smyth.
“Candidates are happy to hop, skip and jump as long as it demonstrates progression. Employers have to work even harder as these candidates are less risk-averse.”
Most likely to find you in: Marketing or PR
You are hard to find. Being a complete all-rounder can be hard when advice tell us to specialise in order to get ahead. But some of you just can’t help being a dab hand at just about everything you turn your hands to.
It is often the case that good all-rounders still excel in certain areas, but learn fast and are open to expanding their skill base beyond what is required.
You heptathletes often make great leaders – able to manage, strategize and fight fires. You work particularly well in a start-up where pretty much anything can be thrown at you.
“These type of employees have real breadth,” says Smyth. Though she warns: “Even if you are truly multi-skilled, you have to be an expert in one thing to really stand-out. Real generalists only ally their full range of skills when they reach a leadership role.”
By Gabriella Griffith