How to navigate your agile career through 2021; a 5-step guide

2020 was a tough year; I'd like to help make 2021 an awesome year for you.

Busy-ness can distract us from what is important to us.
The world is constantly moving around us; take some time to consider yourself

I don’t think we can pause life; it just keeps moving on regardless of whether we want to come along. Have you ever tried to maintain your status-quo and hold off changes to your current situation. It’s a nice idea but reality has a way of, well… keeping things real for us. Careers in agile seem to be shifting and changing rapidly as the industry responds to a more volatile world. This post aims to help you navigate your way towards the role you aspire for or strengthen the position you're in now.


Managing tensions; the key to a career in agile

Take minute to consider your current career path... where you are and where you're heading.


Do you work at the team level and aspire to work at scale? Are you an expert specialist seeking to become more of a general agilist. Are you currently working on your personal mindset or learning a new agile practice or process? Are you certain you're in the right role or are you having doubts?


Managing an agile career has a lot to do with managing the tension between the NOW and the FUTURE version of yourself. I love this work because it involves the people exploring a new version of themselves (internal) as they try doing new activities (external). Your “self” must change to take on a new more challenging role. If you're not seeking a new role I would argue it takes effort and tension to stay in the role you have; nothing is protected from market volatility for long.


The tension I want to discuss in this post relates to getting out of your comfort zone so as to learn and grow. The diagram below shows how to visualise this process



So let’s go through how you can proactively stretch yourself; you can work it out as you read the rest of this post.


Where are you and what’s available?

When I first meet a new coaching/mentoring client we usually are dealing with an urgent issue. Of course I listen and we discuss a way forward but soon after I take the time to hear their back story; where they have come from to where they are now. Then I turn the conversation towards the future and what is available. What do I mean by "available"; let me explain with a personal story.


As a coach I also have a coach. I remember back to our first few sessions; I was umming and ahhing about what to do next and doubting myself. But as great coaches do he asked me a powerful open question


“Is this option available to you?”

This might not sound like a powerful question, but it was for me. Essentially he was challenging me to take a step forward because it was there if I wanted to take it; it was available to me. So now over to you; what is right in front of you and available? Do you have opportunity in front of you that is not being utilised to serve your goals, desires and career ambitions. This could be an experiment within your current workplace or side hustle outside of work. As long as it is there just waiting to be explored it's available. The only thing holding you back is yourself and your willingness to get out of your comfort zone?


What getting out of your comfort zone could look like

Comfort comes in many forms. Last night I had the option to take a call late into the evening for an overseas client. I didn’t have to, I could have said “it’ll be ok”, it was not convenient or comfortable. I took the call and of course it was great, useful; and solidified our relationship.


People say they want to live extraordinary lives but continue to do ordinary things.

Getting out of your comfort zone is by definition NOT going to feel normal. It involves giving something up as an investment in a possible different future. I suppose what I am saying is that getting out of your comfort zone could be a subtle, small inconvenience which, if you are not paying attention, you could miss. Meaning you’ve missed an opportunity to experiment with yourself and your career, to learn, grow and evolve.


Zoom in and zoom out

So here’s what I suggest you do to articulate how you could stretch and create the right tensions in your life; it is a five-step approach:

  1. Zoom outward and take a top-down view of your life and career. Consider where you’ve been, the trajectory you’re on and where you’re heading currently. This involves a consideration of your current strengths, skills and experience to date. Write down what you do, how you do it and why; here’s a post to read on this.

  2. Now zoom in to get very focussed on the here and now and the opportunities and options available to you today, right now! List out everything you could do to stretch yourself in a direction (without constraints or judgement from yourself or anyone, go crazy). This could be deepening your current speciality/position, exploring a radical shift or adding a side-hustle. Let’s call these your stretch activities.

  3. Now force rank your list using three means to prioritise. Check with your head; does it make sense to do this? Check with your heart; when I think of this do I feel motivated and energised? Check with your gut; what’s your intuition saying; the little voice you sometimes ignore.

  4. Choose 1-2 stretch activities from your list that scored highest across the three dimensions.

  5. Write hypothesis. Now write out what needs to be true for you to persevere with the options you have chosen. Create a hypothesis for your choice/s. If I do_<<insert the stretch activity you’re considering__>>, I will feel/get/experience <<____insert what you think the outcome/reward will be>>.


One small step in the next three days

All that’s left to do now is run an experiment to gather data on your choice/s. The key to a good career experiment is to make it safe but still stretch you; get you out of your comfort zone. To be clear


If it is comfortable then you’re not growing and you need to redesign your experiment


So check that your experiment stretch activity takes you into a place where it is not normal and you are (a little) anxious. This means your design is good and you’ll get useful insights.


Conclusion

Once you’ve done your first experiment stretch activity simply keep repeating this process to iterate your way forward in your career. Limit yourself to 1-2 experiments at any one time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. As you gather insights you can make informed decisions to persevere or pivot your career. This essentially is a lean start-up method to create the career you aspire for. Enjoy your journey and remember, we only have one life so let’s make it as awesome as possible.


So, what's available to you today?

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