It’s hard to know how other people see us and however they do, it’s even harder to try to be someone you are not. Most of us have probably reached a stage in life where we no longer try to fit in with other people’s ideas of what makes a useful or interesting person. That said, we almost certainly have characteristics which our friends readily identify and to which we are oblivious, or, at best, indifferent. Yet these characteristics are often the ones we should be using, developing or taking into new fields.
We tend to focus on easily identified achievements or personality traits that are self-evident. Success can easily be measured by our record at work or in other fields by looking at money made, positions achieved, deals completed and so on. Our CVs all doubtless show a logical, smooth and relentless climb up the career ladder and our references will back all of this up. We may well be ‘known’ by people in our field whom we have never even met and a quick look at our LinkedIn profile soon demonstrates our background.
However, none of this really showcases our soft skills and these are the ones that really ought to get more attention. If you asked your friends or close colleagues about why they value you, will they say it’s the fact you’ve made lots of money or will they say it’s that you are always available when needed? Will they pick out the speed and height of your promotions or will they note your ability to identify the flaw in an argument? Will they talk about the deals you made or the way you’ve brought on young talent?
As a Pluralist, your soft skills are often the most significant contribution you bring to new opportunities. You aren’t demonstrating the achievements required for a new full-time job but the characteristics needed across a range of requirements. If you are looking at chances to get involved in a portfolio of activities, what you bring isn’t just deals or contacts but your ability to provide a useful voice. A non-executive director attending half a dozen meetings per year needs to offer quick, analytical and focused contributions. A volunteer operating monthly should make the day they give as productive as possible. A mentor will identify problems and offer solutions when required, not when the diary allows it.
So if you are trying to identify how you can spread your career out, it’s worth asking some people you trust to tell you what they think of you. Ask them what characteristics spring to mind when they think of you. Ask them what job they would put you in if they could reinvent your career. Ask yourself how those answers fit into your future. It’s an exercise that may produce some surprising answers.