Posted by Robert Half on 11 March 2015
Have you managed to get ahead in the career race, or are you lagging behind, in danger of getting lapped by your rivals? If your career development has stalled, or at best, is stuck in first gear, it's time to do something about it. As the lights turn green, it’s your job to put your foot down and go full throttle.
Targeting leadership and management roles in business is like racing in Formula 1. In each grand prix, you're up against a field of high-class competitors, none of whom will give an inch as they try to move up the field. Each of your rivals has talent, ambition and drive, and they're just as eager as you to be first across the finishing line. They all think they know how to win at life and in the grand prix.
If you have the skills, experience and a great engine, you can work your way up the grid. But if you show any weakness, or lack that competitive edge, the front-runners will soon pull away. Unless you invest and focus on your career development, your more proactive, focused and ambitious rivals will simply disappear into the horizon.
Putting yourself in 1st position
In grand prix racing, the top drivers - those with the best CVs - inevitably get the fastest, most reliable cars. This gives them a horsepower advantage over everyone else and, as such, a much greater chance of winning the race. The same applies in business, where professionals with the best career record - in terms of skills, experience, decision-making and return on investment - are the first in line for the best job offers and leadership roles as they know how to win at life, that is to say their career.
To put yourself in pole position for a senior job, use a CV template to build a structure, and constantly keep it update it, tailoring to each specific race or job you apply for. This process begins when you enter the workplace and continues until you retire, or reach the pinnacle in your industry. If you invest in your own development from the start, and show employers what you are made of, you might be in 1st position early in your working life.
What do you need to progress?
So what do you need in order to get ahead? Which skills and capabilities do you need to show to prospective employers? To succeed in your career you need an array of attributes similar to the grand prix to succeed. Here's how to win at life:
1. Raw talent
Racing teams want drivers with natural speed, control and instinct; the sort of qualities you just can't teach. For leadership jobs, employers are looking for intelligence, insight, decision-making capability and charisma. Many of these characteristics are innate. You can develop and improve them through hard work and dedication, but raw ability is a big advantage.
2. A great engine
Formula 1 cars don't get anywhere without a powerful, reliable engine. Similarly, business leaders need to have steel, authority and great stamina. They work long hours under significant amounts of pressure, as the figurehead for their department or organisation. Senior professionals need to have drive, staying power and a resilient nature.
3. High-quality parts
The best F1 cars are slick, streamlined and consist of high-quality parts. Likewise, the top professionals have fantastic skill sets, advanced knowledge and expertise and a strong personal brand. They have qualities that few other professionals can match; it's like comparing Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes to a Prius.
4. A 'fuel supply'
If a racing car runs out of fuel, it grinds to a halt, forcing the driver to retire. The same applies to business leaders who run out of motivation, ambition, confidence or ideas. If their drive and determination goes, this is the end for them as a business leader. And if they haven't got that 'spark' in the first place, the chances are they won't ever be offered a leadership role.
5. Great judgement
Racing drivers need the intelligence to form and execute strategy, identify risks and opportunities, and make the right calls in difficult situations. Like business leaders, they have to have great judgement. If all else fails, senior professionals must rely upon themselves to make the right calls.
At the wheel of a Formula 1 car, drivers have to take blind corners at huge speeds, often aiming to brake later than their opponents in order to overtake. Business leaders find themselves in the same position, having to take calculated risks to gain an advantage. Being a 'Steady Eddy' gets you nowhere, whether on the racetrack or in the City.
7. Great support
Behind every great racing driver is a dedicated, highly skilled team of experts, including mechanics, engineers, designers, strategists and analysts. Each constructor invests many millions of pounds each year creating the best possible car and maximising their drivers' chances of success.
Great support is also essential for professionals wanting to become business leaders. In the workplace, they need the consensus of other directors, management and employees, and strong support from their team. And as they look to develop their careers and find new opportunities, they need support from other parties, such as coaches, mentors and recruitment agencies.
Recruiters in particular have an important role to play. They can match job candidates with prospective employers, helping ambitious professionals develop successful careers in business leadership. Whether you're looking for your first senior role or your fifth, a recruitment agency can help you find a job you love.