It was an incredible honour to be one of the event speakers at the 2023 Oxford MBA Alumni Connect, live in Saïd Business School. I shared reflections on career growth, drawing on lessons learned in my journey so far. Here are three things that have helped me, and continue to help me, drive my career growth:
1. Finding meaning (or purpose) in your work
Finding meaning (or purpose) in your work is important to having a fulfilling and enjoyable work life. We spend around 50-70% of our total waking hours working, it’s a no-brainer to do work that’s meaningful to you. Finding meaning in your work helps you deliver your best work and be a high performer. You know what is at stake, and it drives you to deliver your very best.
You can find meaning in your work in two ways.
Do work that fuels your passion
What’s that thing that excites you, keeps you up at night, and makes you feel alive? For some, building products to solve problems lights their fire. For others, it’s teaching and nurturing the younger generation. It’s in doing work that aligns with your passion that you will find satisfaction and begin your journey to finding meaning in your work.
Find meaning in whatever job you find yourself
Every job you do has a primary or secondary purpose. An accountant is responsible for making sure that an organization is financially healthy - a key determinant of long-term growth for any organization. The duty of a product designer is to ensure that the end users of a product have the best experience with that product, which will ultimately drive growth. Consultants are charged with making high-stake recommendations to solve critical organizational challenges.
Figure out what the purpose of your work is, where it fits in the puzzle of the overall value your organization is creating and use your skills and capabilities in service of that purpose. Doing this will give you meaning and a sense of fulfilment daily, and consequently drive you to deliver quality work and be a star performer.
2. Seeking out and leveraging mentorship and sponsorship
Mentorship has been one of the silver bullets in my career journey, and frankly my whole life’s journey. It has given me wisdom well beyond my years and given me the courage to dare things I otherwise wouldn’t have done. The beautiful thing about mentorship is that it has no limit. No matter which level one gets to in their career or in life, there’s always a need to have a sounding board, someone that can help you identify blind spots and give feedback, or someone to cheer you on.
Often times, people believe that seeking mentorship is daunting. It doesn’t have to be. It mostly feels daunting when people search for grand public figures - who typically don’t have the time and flexibility for one-to-one mentorship. Here are three simple ways to seek out mentorship.
Look around you
There are people in your place of work and community that have experiences and wisdom you need. Reach out for a 15-minute chat and ask questions. People are usually willing to help if the commitment is minimal.
Peer mentorship is so valuable but very often overlooked. You have peers that are more skilled in certain areas or have more information than you do, leverage them. There are peers in your network that have access to highly valuable mentors; tap into the wisdom of the mentor that influences your peers through peer mentorship.
There are legends that churn out tons of resources online to share their wisdom - books, videos, podcasts, articles. Get mentored by these legends through their content.
On sponsorship, I’m a firm believer that sponsorship is required for significant career success. Find a sponsor that can speak for you in rooms where you are not present, can stake their personal and professional currencies to open doors for you, and will give you big assignments that may scare you but will ultimately help you grow. A sure-fire way to gaining sponsorship is by being excellent at your job and by being a value contributor.
3. Mastering the ‘rules of the game’
Early in one’s career, learning the hard/technical skills for a job or field of career is essential. However, as you become more senior in your career, it goes beyond the hard skills. Equally as important is learning and mastering the ‘rules of the game’ in the area of expertise, company or industry you play in.
By rules of the game, I’m referring to those subtle nuances required to get ahead. What are the unsaid criteria for growth that no one speaks about, but you’ve seen play out often? What kind of networks do you need to develop? What soft skills will enable you to grow as a leader in that field? What are the experiences you need to achieve your next promotion or reach your career goals? Which projects do you need to do to get more visibility?
Don’t assume you understand the rules of the game in your organization or industry. Take the time to observe and ask questions - especially when transitioning roles, industry, or careers. Many times, the tricks of the trade differ from place to place, and from time to time.
These key points have been instrumental in my career journey and are worth including in your toolkit to accelerate your career growth.
This article was originally posted on Tofunmi’s LinkedIn.