Culture: A New Horizon of Learning & Growth For Your Career?

Posted by on Mar 24, 2016 in career development, careers | 0 comments

Culture: A New Horizon of Learning & Growth For Your Career?

It is completely normal to talk about company culture but we are still a long way from appreciating the power and importance of culture when it comes to our careers.

While it is great to observe companies engaging with and expressing cultural beliefs (because when this is done well and done right, it is impactful and meaningful) no single company, organisation or country has a monopoly on culture. Culture is for everyone to appreciate, to learn from and understand.

The benefits of being fluent in any culture are numerous, so what can we (as individuals) do in order to explore this new and potentially exciting aspect of our careers? The 5 ideas below can help you explore, clarify and perhaps think about more effective ways to communicate your unique career culture (and unique is no exaggeration). The aim here is to help you and others get to the heart of what you want, who you are and what you do.

[Note: As with any cultural exploration (or discovery process) the answers don’t fall into your lap. Easy answers and quick-fixes are alluring but they can also be counter-cultural to personal career development. If the immediate lightbulb moments don’t come, I’m encouraging you to give an important subject like this (i.e. you and your career) a little more time]

1. Re-read Your Job Description

  • Remember all those bullets you memorised before your last interview? Take another look and ask yourself if any of these points actually describe what you do
  • If your job description is accurate, ask yourself ‘How’ you go about the things it describes (cultural clues tend to cluster around ‘How’)
  • If parts of your job description are inaccurate, write some new bullets of your own. Reviewing what you do every day (and how this evolves and changes over time) is another good way to bring your distinctive career culture to light

2. Analyse Good Outcomes

  • Think about a recent result you were pleased with… How did you achieve this? What pleased you most? How would you describe the methods/skills/styles you applied to unlock this achievement?
  • Compare your results with colleagues & friends… Do the same things make everyone happy? Do you all work the same way? What do you do differently? (the differences can be slight but the cultural impact huge)
  • More clues to your career culture can always be found in your work (what we call work, a researcher might call empirical data). Once you know where to look the cultural indicators are everywhere, all you have to do is give a little of your time and attention (to their study)

3. Explore Your Values

  • To anyone paying attention, your values are visible in everything you do (your values are also ever-present, always positive and just waiting to be explored). Ask yourself… What’s important to me? Why are these things so important? How do they influence my behaviour and attitude every day?
  • Think of values as the principles/beliefs that are most important to you. Whatever they are (e.g. Treating people with respect, Doing the right thing, Working hard and doing a good job) values are the rock-solid foundations of every career culture
  • If you are unsure about your values and the impact they have on your career, once again the evidence (you seek) is in your experience. When we interview it is always for third-party reasons (e.g. a job, a promotion, our extrinsic potential). The notion of career culture has no inherent external focus (the import and potential of intrinsic self-discovery is a genuine game-changer for every career)

4. Think Positively About Talent

  • There’s no need to be coy, we are all multi, multi-talented and it is not arrogance to say so. We can talk about our talents in ways that are unique to us (with appropriate/necessary levels of confidence and humility) and in doing so highlight key cultural elements to build connections around
  • To learn more about your talents, ask yourself… What am I good at? What do other people tell me I am good at? What do I do without thinking? What do people ask for my help with? There’s every chance your answers to questions like these will be different (and in many ways difference = culture)
  • Talent is not bestowed at birth. Everything you can already do had to be learned. Everything you want to get better at doing in the future must be learned too. The range and depth of your talent can always improve (‘I think therefore I am’ is a philosophical staple, ‘I learn therefore I am’ is the career culture equivalent)

5. Clarify & Simplify Your Goals

  • Goals are central to the culture of every career. Whether they are (already) clear or not, the more you know about the goals that motivate and move you, the easier they are to talk about and share (what keeps you going can be something others readily connect with)
  • Ask yourself what really gets you out of bed every morning (no doubt income/bill paying has its part but we all work for something more). Set yourself the challenge to dig a little deeper and explore your goals a little further
  • So… What keeps you going? What are you working or striving towards? Where do you want your career to go? In addition to the obvious answers there’s typically a deep-lying goal (or more than one) that you will talk about in a unique way (I urge you to dive deep for the cultural treasure here)

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For every single one of us, career culture can be a rewarding place to explore. The above ideas only scratch the surface because culture is deep. There is no other way to say it, something this important takes time (and needs your time).

In many ways, personal career culture is something you are already closer to than culture within companies and other organisations. You will always be closer to the source of culture in your career because that source is you.

Culture-led advantages can be a great asset to you and your unique relationship with work. A little study here can change the way you think and feel about your past, present and future career (e.g. in terms of satisfaction, fulfilment, motivation and success). For all of these reasons and more, I encourage you to explore the notion of culture in your career to see what you will find.

What works so well for groups of people can work just as well for you.

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An earlier version of this article was co-authored with Hazel Oatey and published here.

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