I once read a quote that ‘if experience is the teacher, then exposure is the classroom’. As a young professional it is key to not only do your work well, but to not do the same work repeatedly without gaining new skills.
Once you have mastered a skill, learn other new skills.
When you start your career it is easy to follow the path most people have taken and to continue to do the same work you did the year before.
Assess what your medium- to long-term career goals are and the skills you will need. Then try and obtain the skills through different types of experiences. Acquiring skills comes with experience, not age. It is important to distinguish between the two. If you do not feel anxious now and again about a new experience then you are not learning.
It is not about doing something once and assuming you’ve acquired the skill. It is about building on the skills you acquire each time. Top performers are not only comfortable with discomfort, they actively seek discomfort. They are actively looking for ways to grow and improve themselves.
As a manager, try to expose yourself to different experiences. Expand your worldview. Limited experiences can lead to a limited worldview. Broad exposure allows you to see the world beyond your immediate surroundings.
Remember you do not need to know it all on your own. A skill great leaders acquire is that of being able to put together great teams. It’s about having the best people in your team and getting the best out of them so that their talents are utilised. The book Good to Great by Jim Collins highlights what great companies did to be great.
One of the principles highlighted is ‘getting the right people on the bus’. This principle is about building great teams. Rely on your team’s skills.
In summary, seek to expose yourself where there are opportunities, feel comfortable with discomfort, do a skills audit of yourself often, and don’t be complacent.
Your career is your own private company. Manage it as such.
Author: Gugu Mtetwa CA(SA) is a Non-executive Director (former Audit Partner at PwC)