Career Advice from HBR: Zig, Zag, Zoom!

In this month's Harvard Business Review, global search executive Claudio Fernandez Araoz listed nine winning qualities when it comes to evaluating a candidate's leadership potential.

- Flexibility

- Empathy

- Organizational awareness

- Relationship management

- Curiosity

- Insight

- Inspiration

- Determination

- Motivation

What's even more interesting is that top-level recruiters are also looking for people who have switched it up a good bit. That is, ideal candidates have moved around, taken risks and yes, even failed. Moving around includes changing jobs, changing careers, going from corporate to consulting, small business to big companies (and the reverse), moving from one country to another and taking up new hobbies, causes and interests.

Why would such a peripatetic course be so compelling? The answer might come from successful start-ups. About 70% of superior small companies wind up succeeding in businesses that were not in their original business plan. They put their figurative toes in the water, and realized it was too cold or in some other way not right. So, they looked around for other opportunities, niches and needs they could fulfill, and steered themselves to underserved target markets. It is of course, why entrepreneurial ventures have such a huge advantage when it comes to disrupting roadmaps. There is no legacy to cling to. No prior investments. No ties that bind. Consider what that means to an individual career.

Can you operate the same way and win? Probably. If you are driven to succeed and willing to cultivate the skills and intelligence it takes, along with keeping up good relationships with those whom you are leaving (and those whom you are seeking to serve anew).

Of course, no recruiter is looking for a candidate who randomly stops and starts, or picks up on a whim and leaves clients or companies high and dry (shouldn't that be low and soaking wet?). Well, you know what I mean.

You've got to tell a coherent story about why you moved on or moved away. Answers like, "a new challenge," "to learn a new marketplace," and "to leverage my education by adding to it with a complementary skill," will gain you points. So, think about zigging and zagging along your career path rather than attempting to climb straight up. That might mean you take a salary cut to transition to a new field, or you work-study longer into the day or night than your peers. It might mean selling your business to someone (perhaps an employee or interested consultant) or even closing it when all the ends are tied up neatly.

Leaders are both brave and responsible. They seek to innovate even as they provide stability to others. The most significant and rewarding careers are filled with unusual experiences and the ability to take stock rather than simply lumbering forward. Start today by evaluating where you are and imagining what you need to experience, in order to get where you ultimately want to go.

Now zig, zag, zoom!

Author:

Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen