Tenure is not an investment in your career
Each one of us is responsible for our own professional growth path, including our experience and exposure in the industry, and future employability. The challenge is, that many in Australian retail, still confuse tenure with experience.
With the speed of change in retail only anticipated to accelerate, a focus on continuous learning and skill acquisition rather than tenure, will be critical to maintaining professional relevance.
The question is, who should really be responsible for your professional development? There are, as you’d expect, wide ranging views on this and the approach will differ from one retailer to the next. However what retailers are increasingly recognising, is the value of creating the right environment for professional development, beyond the basics, as core to their Employee Value Proposition (EVP), alongside culture and remuneration, in attracting and retaining top talent.
Creating an environment that supports professional growth is absolutely a step in the right direction, but there is only value when you step up and take control, making decisions that will positively impact your career.
Experience is not about tenure
There is a common misconception in retail, rightly or wrongly, that tenure is tantamount to experience and seniority; that you can only progress in an organisation if you’ve ‘earned your stripes’; that respect only comes about as a result of time in a role rather than the results themselves.
Loyalty is important and the power of institutional knowledge should be recognised, but promotion based on tenure is no longer the fait accompli it has once been. Particularly, as new blood enters organisations, and from markets where competitiveness is reliant on a hunger to learn and grow.
Experience is also more aligned to exposure; both across an organisation or across an industry. Even if your career has been tied up with the one organisation, progression and role diversity can be a key differentiator in market and a drawcard for potential employers.
Irrespective of your tenure, it’s critical to understand how employable you are outside of your current role, organisation and sector; how relevant and transferable your skills are. Which begs the question: how long is too long in a role? That is the multi-million dollar question faced by retail today. The industry is equally responsible for placing emphasis on time served rather than value added.
Complacency is a career killer
As recruiters, we are constantly on the lookout for talent that can make a tangible difference to retailers as the industry continues to evolve. We look for those who understand that what got them to where they are in their career today, is unlikely to get them to that next step tomorrow.
And faced with a choice between two equally capable individuals for a role – one motivated to invest in their professional development and career, to step outside of their comfort zone, and another who expects their employer to take on the responsibility for their professional development, it should come as no surprise as to which one is likely to be offered the role.
Investing in you
Regardless of your seniority, the key to success in the retail industry is to maintain your professional relevance by making an investment in you. It may surprise you as to how high the return on that investment can be.
If you reflect on your career, have you been guilty of relying on your tenure as a way forward? Would you say you have followed a conventional path to get to where you are today working your way through the ranks, or rather that you have used the environment created by your employer as a springboard for your professional growth and development?
There is always going to be an element of ‘being in the right place at the right time’. But ultimately, like anything in life, what you put into your career is what you will get out of it. Maybe not in the short term but almost certainly in the long term.
So what shape could an ‘investment in you’ take? There are as many informal as there are formal pathways. There are more traditional options such as studying for an MBA or Masters, or taking a course at the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). There are more informal approaches such as attending networking events, participating in committees or volunteering in the community.
Interestingly, a growing number in the retail sector are choosing to take professional investment that one step further; investing in a side project as a catalyst for personal growth and development. But there is one often overlooked opportunity that can provide the greatest return on investment; putting your hand up, rather than your hand out, for internal cross-function projects. These internal initiatives can present enormous potential for personal growth and quite literally open doors across an organisation.
Whichever way you choose to invest in you, what’s important to remember, is that it’s never too late to start investing, and take responsibility for you.