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Pursuing learning and opportunities outside of work makes for better employees

Emily Bowen, Growth and Partnerships Manager at Forsythes Recruitment & HR and host of the My Millennial Career podcast, believes we are each responsible for our own career journey and need to let employers know what we want if we are to achieve it.

Emily sits down with LinkedIn Enterprise Account Director Clara McCarthy in the latest of RCSA’s and LinkedIn’s The New Face of Recruitment: Female Leaders Paving the Way series.

She talks about her podcast, her own journey to success and why Millennials need to take responsibility for their own career path rather than having someone else dictate what happens for them professionally.

Q. You are a strong believer that each person should be self-reliant to some degree when it comes to their career progression. What do you mean by that?

I am really passionate about this idea of ‘career self-reliance’. It basically means that your career and your work is on you. It’s that strong sense of ownership, and I feel like I have been lucky to find a culture in this organisation that aligns to my values. That is easier said than done; I get it and I don’t take it for granted. I went back to university to study psychology in 2014 and at the time a lot of people asked me if I was changing careers. I hadn’t even considered it, but I did see it as a way to continue to keep my skillset and knowledge relevant to what I do, which I describe as being a fascination with people at work.

I have been with Forsythes for nine years and in that time, I have held seven or eight different job titles. I have stayed interested in where I am because the business continues to evolve which has kept me engaged because I am evolving as well. That’s a long time to work for the one company, but it hasn’t felt like it because of the opportunities I have been offered and sought out myself. I have seen a lot of people come in through the doors of businesses who ask what they need to do next for career progression. They are looking for a linear career path and for it to be mapped out ahead of them, but the culture of where we are is about owning your own destiny.

I have always been open and honest in my communication with my bosses and let them know where I am at and where I want to be. When opportunities have arisen, I was thought of because I had that open and up-front communication that says, “Hey, if this ever happens, here’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, can you think of me?”

Q. Can you tell us about the My Millennial Career podcast you started this year? Why did you start it and what are you hoping to achieve with it?

For me this is another example of career self-reliance where I stepped out of my comfort zone and it created a great opportunity to grow. I had been listening to the My Millenial Money podcast and connected with Glen James who is the host and founder of the podcast. I recorded a guest episode of My Millennial Money about how to land your dream job and how to get a pay rise. We decided to create a spin-off, with me co-hosting with Shelley Johnson.

After a couple of months planning and recording, we launched the My Millennial Career podcast on New Year’s Day 2020. We have recorded Season Two and are in planning for Season Three.

The podcast has really been interesting in terms of understanding the world of work. We were recently talking with the CEO of the Institute of Managers and Leaders who said the quarter-life career crisis Millennials are having in their 20s and 30s was exactly the same for him when he was our age. It is not a new concept which is unique to Millennials, where you can feel dissatisfied with your career after five or 10 years.

Another topic which keeps coming up is around the future of work from a technological point of view. It’s about trying to stay aware, take ownership and be reliant on yourself to remain relevant and skilled; not to expect that you can sit back and stay complacent and let things happen around you. If progress for you looks like a more senior role, more money or to really be doing what you love, it takes hard work to get there. It’s not something you can just set and forget; you actually have to continue to work on it until you retire.

I can’t help but wonder how many different careers and jobs we have now and how many a Millennial will have in their lifetime. While that might be scary in some respects, it is quite exciting. Based on the fact that everything we do now is soft skill based, it can give us the opportunity to easily transition into different careers, as we aren’t relying only on technical skills; we are relying on your ability to take information and communicate better, or take relationships and leverage them better.

Q. What advice would you offer young consultants who know they are capable of doing more? What should they be doing to help themselves?

For me it is all about communication. I am a big believer in that no one is a mind reader. You can absolutely have a conversation with your boss or the decision maker that says: “This is where I’m at, this is what I’m interested in and this is time frame that I feel would work for me, if that works with the business.”

This is where a bit of patience comes in. Unless you put yourself out there and on the radar in a way that is not pushy or demanding, then no one is going to know. I have seen it time again in our business where people leave while others get promoted. The people who are more likely to be considered when an opportunity does present itself are the hard workers who have put their hand up and said I want to move forward with the company. There is a risk, but if you don’t put it out there your boss might assume that you are really happy doing what you’re doing and if you’re performing well, they will leave you there.

Q. What advice would you give someone who loves their day job but also wants to start a side hustle? Is it the same advice you would have given yourself two years ago if you had the knowledge and experience you have now?

My advice would be to be intentional in what you do, meaning you don’t have to do everything, but make sure that you are getting bang for your buck with what you do put your hand up for. You may be spending your time working on 10 different things and getting little return on your investment of time, energy and expertise whereas if you pick three things, you may be able to leverage those things better. Everyone only has a finite amount of time and being intentional means you are less likely to over-commit.

Q. What advice would you give to employers, who have people within their organisations who are doing really well in their day job but also have an outside passion that they are pursing? How do you manage that from an employer’s perspective?

I believe this is very personal and may not apply to everyone, but I would say to employers to encourage the pursuit of outside passions. For me, if my employer had not been encouraging and embraced me pursuing things that were important to me, I would have left the business for one which did. Businesses get a better version of their employees if they are happy and fulfilled.

I know I still need to get the outcomes here at my day job for my primary employer. I still need to make sure I’m available when I need to be available and if anything, going and collecting those other experiences has made me better at what I do. Therefore, hopefully my employer has a better employee out of it.

While there is a risk that employees will leave, it is always better to have employees who feel engaged because they have an opportunity to do a bunch of different things and learn skills along the way, rather than feeling trapped in one organisation. Encouraging staff to pursue external opportunities and passions is actually a good retention strategy.

Thank you Emily. Keep posted for our monthly series and if you have someone you think should be profiled, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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