Career is a lifelong journey. Sometimes you think you are driving it and sometimes career metastasises itself in random directions.
In the past 12 years I have guided, mentored and trained over few thousand of colleagues, employees and learners in their career. I have developed this simple rule to guide pretty much any career inflection point.
I call it the 3 Axis Rule.
Career revolves around 3 Axes
- Your domain experience
- Your hard skills
- Your soft skills
Your domain experience consists of multiple facets:
Sector – The sector that you worked in
Network – The network that you built in that sector
Organisation – The organisation that you worked in
Knowledge – The tribal knowledge that you gained in that sector and in the organisation
Exceptions – The exceptions in the sector and organisation
Similarly, your hard skills consists of multiple facets:
- Tools – The tools that you gained competency in
- Network – The network of folks you built around the tools of your trade
- Organisation – The organisational and communication frameworks you gained
- Knowledge – The frameworks that you learnt
- Exceptions – The exceptions that you learnt
Lastly, your soft skills consists of:
- Critical Thinking
- Problem – solving
To affect any career event, like switch or transition, you need to pivot on one of these axis. You maximise your returns if all three axes overlap and are aligned. Very similar to the ikigai concept.
Let’s understand how to make this work with some visualisations.
Visualization of domain pivot
When you make this pivot, you are planning to unlearn and relearn some skills, while keeping the domain constant. For eg., you wish to stay in the healthcare domain but wish to move from sales to product owner for instance – You are pivoting ON healthcare domain. Sales requires very different hard & soft skills compared to product owner role, hence you will have to spend some time in learning these skills.
Visualization of hard skills pivot
To make a pivot on hard skills, you would list your hard skills, understand the technical knowledge you have acquired and the tools you are good at, followed by figuring out which domains and soft skills you can transition to, which need the same hard skills. So for eg. if you know how to use tableau and do business analytics. Then figure out which domains and soft skills can utilise the same hard skills.
Visualization of soft skills pivot
When you are pivoting on soft skills, try to look at which domains can utilise the soft skills that you posses. Similarly, look at which hard skills will go along with these soft skills. For eg. the soft skill of decision making goes very well with the hard skill of data analytics.
At the start of your career out of the college, you have no domain experience pretty much, and so you can only pivot on your hard or soft skill.
To be able to make successful pivots, learn about the trajectories of your domain, your hard skills and your soft skills. Where else can they be used and how valuable are they in the new avenues.
Let’s talk about few examples.
Transition from Sales in Logistics domain to Finance domain
You are pivoting on sales – soft skill that you possess. Hard skills required to pivot from sales in logistics to finance, are very different. Sales in logistics domain requires you to work with companies that need items shipped quickly and perfectly. While sales in finance domain is largely about regulations, you would want to know how to work with regulations, compliances, sectoral needs and so on if you are transitioning from logistics domain.
Transition from operations in healthcare to PM in healthcare
You are pivoting on domain – healthcare. The domain expertise is very similar but the skills required to transition from operations to PM is very different.
Transition from Marketing in e-commerce to standup comic
You are pivoting on your soft skills. You are a people person, you have a way with words and are able to communicate really well.
So next time you are thinking about career transition, think about the pivot you are making and then figure out the trajectories of rest of the axis.
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