"You're at the wheel of your career"

Marieke van der Aa Business Consultant - Financial Institutions Netherlands Connect on Linkedin

How do you grow into a challenging role in your career? How do you learn lifelong learning in practice? How do you work off a lack of motivation? Recruiter Marieke van der Aa from the Blue Chip Boutique 'Financial Institutions' in the Netherlands raises these questions and draws answers from her own experience and that of job applicants, as well as from her many readings.

First and foremost: you are in control. You are at the wheel of your career.

That requires entrepreneurship. It is up to you to make your ambition known and to indicate what you need. At TriFinance we work with people who are working in this way. They take matters into their own hands. We call them Me inc.®'ers (me incorporated).

Me inc.®'ers are:
- entrepreneur of their talents, skills, knowledge, and career,
- always busy with self-development and learning new things,
- not afraid of unknown territory, but meets challenges head-on,
- intelligent and pragmatic, and trusts his knowledge and talents,
- focused on cooperation and sharing knowledge,
- ready to make their own choices, 

- a supporter of the values and goals of TriFinance/ParkLane Insight.

Several ideas work as traps that you can easily fall into.

If I deliver good quality and always work hard, I will automatically be rewarded for my efforts.

Quality and effort are certainly important, but not enough to set you apart. Therefore, also think about a positive way in which you can distinguish yourself from your colleagues.

    Networking is very important. I need to know as many people within the organization as possible.

    A large network of people who know you is valuable. But don't make networking an end in itself. Also, think about the impression you leave on people. Be aware of the impact you make.

    If I keep coming up with good ideas for improvements, they see the potential I have.

    There is a fine line between coming up with good ideas and constantly criticizing. So make sure you contribute positively and pragmatically. Know when to accept something as it is.


    If you are not growing in your career the way you want despite your expertise and commitment, you can take several initiatives.

    Again: you are in control of your career.
    Your employer and manager do nothing more than facilitating your growth. Therefore, take the initiative yourself and explore multiple career paths.

    Determine the direction in which you want to excel and grow.
    Put a dot on the horizon. This does not have to be a final goal but look several years ahead. Then think about what your intermediate steps will be to reach your goal. What responsibilities in your work can you pick up to move forward? What will be the next role that will bring you one step closer to your desired position? You won't answer these questions in an instant. Find a sparring partner or mentor to think with you. That's how you create your career path and realize your ambition.

    Make sure you have a realistic self-image.
    Know what they ask for in the role you aspire to. What behavior, competencies, skills, and knowledge belong to that role? Where do you stand now? What is the first concrete step or change you are going to apply from today? Again, these are not easy questions to answer. Ask for feedback from colleagues who will hold up an honest and sincere mirror to you. Or call in a coach, who will guide you in the process of change. Being the director of your career also means knowing when you need someone else's expertise or insight to move forward.

    Invest in your future.
    If you've held the same position in the finance industry for a long time, you've probably built up a good benefits package. You have security and that makes you feel comfortable, but the real growth is outside your comfort zone. Ask yourself what you are willing to invest. Do you invest your own time in education and training? Are you willing to pay for training yourself? Are you open to moving to an organization where the salaries are lower but invest in your growth and development? Dare to choose. Your investments will help you realize your ambition.

    Find the right environment.
    This tip is an important precondition. Find an environment where your ambition gets space. Choose an organization or network where the people around you understand the guidance you need to grow.


    Lifelong learning

    More and more people are choosing not to stay with the same employer for their entire careers. Partly because the job market is changing ever more rapidly, the employer is no longer the constant factor in a career. That constant is you. This provides more room for personal development and offers the opportunity for multiple career paths. The condition, however, is that you continue to invest in yourself by continuing to learn.

    Good, but how do you do that in practice, lifelong learning?

    It is a misconception to think that working and learning are two different things.

    It starts with asking where your ambition lies.

    What growth do you see for yourself in the coming years? Is that in the same job, or do you want to move into a different role? Is your ambition future-proof or is there a chance that the work you envision will be automated? What do you need to remain relevant in the job market? Formulate an objective for yourself that you can grow towards within a defined period.

    Then comes the question of what you need to make that step.

    What knowledge and skills do you need? What competencies and behavior fit the role? And what do you need to work on? This involves a combination of theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and personal growth. They always go together. A nice certificate alone will not qualify you for the next position.

    Your personal development is central to this.

    This has an even greater impact than gaining theoretical knowledge. A new role emphasizes different competencies and requires different behavior. You don't develop this simply by following a training course. It takes practice and reflection.

    You achieve your long-term goal by taking small steps, which you formulate as micro-goals.

    You have a long-term ambition and now know what you need to achieve it. The next step is to think of intermediate, smaller goals. By setting micro-goals you keep a better grip on your development because you have a continuous view of the progress you have already made. Meeting that series of micro-goals leads to your long-term goal.

    Ultimately, you learn the most by doing.

    Try to create space in your current work for your personal development. Seek challenges and ask for additional or different responsibilities. Are you following a training course or theoretical education? Then look at how you can immediately apply the knowledge you have gained. Apply what you've learned as much as possible in your daily work or side activities.


    All is well and good, but what if your motivation has dropped?

    Motivation is not a given. It is complex and above all, it requires constant effort. It is good to distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is about outside factors that stimulate you. This could be a financial bonus if you achieve your targets. Only those external factors only provide a short one-time boost. That can be a good impulse to find your feet again.

    But for a longer-lasting boost, you must work on your intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within. So you can't expect others to take the initiative to make conditions better for you. You are the initiator. It's all about your job satisfaction.

    How do you make work of your intrinsic motivation?

    Four factors will help you do this.

    Have fun with your work.
    This is the most important factor. It doesn't mean that every workday has to be fun. It does mean that you are happy with the work you do. Doing your work out of a certain interest and that gives you satisfaction is a very strong motivator.
    Research for yourself when you enjoy your work the most. For example, is it in specific tasks or responsibilities? Or in learning new skills and applying knowledge? Elements to which the answer is positive should predominate in your work. This will stimulate your intrinsic motivation.

    More autonomy strengthens motivation. Do realize that the freer you are in your work, the more responsibility you will have. When you make the decisions yourself, you are responsible for the result. More autonomy is necessarily accompanied by a strong sense of responsibility.
    To experience more autonomy in your work, it is important to make good agreements. What result do you deliver and what are the deadlines? When can you be reached? By making good and concrete agreements about what you deliver, you can determine how to achieve the agreed result. So you have an influence on the degree of autonomy in your work.

    You want to use your talents and look for challenges to develop yourself further. It is important to have confidence in your ability and learning capacity. It has to do with curiosity, being open to learning, and actively seeking feedback, even when things get tough.
    To gain confidence in your skills and capabilities, it is important to make your development concrete and translate it into small actions. What are you going to do differently as of tomorrow? By making it small, you will see the result of your actions faster. With these 'small' successes your motivation will increase and you will tackle bigger challenges with more self-confidence.

    Building a bond with your colleagues and receiving appreciation are important elements in your work. Both ensure that you feel extra driven to deliver quality work and a good result. To feel this connection, a positive work environment is important. Be aware that you can influence this yourself and make an active contribution.
    Does working from home make you miss the informal contact with colleagues? Or do you miss the connection with the mission and goals of the organization? Then take the initiative yourself. Organize low-threshold (online) moments to talk to your colleagues. Not only informative and work-related but also create moments for real personal contact.

    If you work on your motivation, it will certainly lead to value creation. It makes you even more valuable as a professional than you already are.