A lot of people come to me for career advice and I tell them all it’s about how to ‘gamify your career’. Amongst my small circle of friends or slightly larger circle of connections on LinkedIn or other social media groups, quite a few people know I’ve never failed an interview and I’ve been headhunted for all of my roles over the past 8 years before becoming an entrepreneur and it’s still happening. I was even offered a new role to be the Head of Architecture for the entire Asia Pacific Region for a big bank, after expressing what I wanted for my dream job in Singapore in 2013, while drinking with colleagues at the pub.
Usually, those who come for advice want to change what they are doing or take that next step forward. But increasingly I’m getting many questions from people who are worried their skills are becoming irrelevant and their jobs and careers are getting disrupted. They are super worried about being made redundant, with no possible new jobs on offer in the same area at all, or there are 1000+ applicants for the one role. The ‘game of jobs’ or ‘game of careers’ is proving to be getting harder.
Many have tried to upskill and pick up lots of certificates in order to help them find that new role perhaps in another area, but there’s so much competition, the best roles are still going to those with the relevant experience. And many complain that they don’t have the aptitude to learn AI and data science from scratch, as maths was never their forte, so learning how to code felt too hard. And not all the best jobs are in coding by the way either.
So what can and should they do to change the game when faced with an endless cycle of career disrupted.
The answer lies in knowing the ‘art and science’ of gamification. To ‘gamify your career’ – this is the secret I figured out 8 years ago, which led to my big change.
At the time, I wasn’t worried about being disrupted, but feeling stuck that my career wasn’t moving fast enough. I had some big goals, and I wanted more and that next promotion and that big pay rise. And then I figured it out.
I learned how to play the game and since then I’ve only been headhunted and I’ve managed to tell people what jobs I want, as well as what money I wanted which I felt was fair for my work and the value that I provide.
How to gamify your career in 4 steps
Firstly, just to be clear, there is no cheating, stealing or lying in the gamification process. Some people will tell you to “fake it till you make it” and that is a lie. You will get found out and then no one will ever one to work with you again. I’ve seen this happen to a few people who tried this false tactic. Ethically, it wasn’t something I ever considered and it’s not part of my makeup, and I used to get frustrated when I say how some people I worked with appeared to be rewarded despite this dirty gameplay. And besides, that’s not winning, when you haven’t earned it.
Growing your career is hard work, and there’s a lot of skill involved and dedication to become a winner. I like to use this quote from his Airness Michael Jordan who ruled the game of basketball to inspire me – I may be showing my age here – but I don’t care – his Airness was the best.
Image Source: Steve Lipofsky at basketballphoto.com, CC BY-SA 3.0
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
— Michael Jordan
What did I do then to start to gamify my career? What’s the process?
The process to gamify your career is comprised of four(4) steps:
1. Get your Mindset right
You’re never going to win the game, or get anything right if you can’t get your head in the right space or into the right gear. Know that you have to be in it to win it, learn to take your shot and make sure you enjoy the journey, or you will be miserable and that’s not winning. So one big clue is – are you happy and enjoying your career? Or are you stuck? And if so, get ready to work hard to solve your problem. Don’t be afraid to fail – like Michael Jordan did, before he succeeded.
2. Building PowerUp Skills
There are a lot of skills out there and you have to pick up the ones that will work as power-ups that will give you that edge or difference in the competition. It is also about knowing when to use it. A lot of people invest in so many certificates and skills hoping that these skills will get them in the door, past a recruiter or the algorithm that they use. But then they can’t get past the interview to secure the job. Or they lie their way into the job and then they’re scared or worried they can’t do the job. With the right skills, especially gamification skills, you won’t need to ever feel like this again. Learn what these special power-up skills are from the blog: Gamification Power-Up Skills that disrupt and accelerate your career.
3. Find the Path or the Game Room is best suited to you
Most people try to copy a path thinking it will be easier. Well, there’s no glory in that, for sure, if that is all you do. It’s ok to find someone else’s path and even their Roadmap to victory, but then you have to make it your own, for that victory to really taste that much sweeter because you achieved it your way. This is how I feel when I’m playing board games like Risk or SmallWorld or trying my hand at Fortnight or Call of Duty. The key is to look for the Career Path that suits you best and where you want to go with your future career. There is absolutely nothing wrong in chasing your dream job. In fact, that’s what you should always be doing – working on it, or trying to figure out what it is that will make you happy, where you will perform at your best and where you have that chance to become a champion if given your shot. Becoming champion is where all the money is too, it comes with the territory. So, if you’re in a role that is wrong for you, then your real job is to work out what is the right Game Room for you to play in, while you ‘hold on’ and hone your craft to becoming champion in the right ROOM. Realize that it’s just a day job, for now, and go and work out and/or work on your dream career. Also, know when to walk away from the wrong battles too. Sometimes, you can get stuck in a bad situation and you can keep fighting a losing battle OR walk away so you live to fight another day.
I did this, and told people what I wanted and got a new job offer within 3 days, where I got to write my own job description.
4. Play the game and learn how to win. Solve the problem to reach your end-goal.
There’s a reason why people with experience get the best job first, especially when there is a lot of competition. But hold on, how do you get the experience then, when you’re not given the chance. Well, how does a little baby or kid learn to crawl, stand, walk and then run? They try and enter the game, and learn and keep playing till they get it. This is what you have to do to get the experience. You have to play the game and then keep playing and practicing to learn how to win. With your dream job, go and get the experience by taking an internship with a grandmaster to learn their craft so you can master it and better it. Ask for the experience, try different things and solve the problems that need solving in that future job of your dreams and present your solution freely to the world. We live in a world where you can get paid for anything from your viral video on YouTube. Could that be the best place to put your CV? Employees and hiring managers just want the best person for the job, and that best person is the one they think will solve their problems. So if you can present how you would solve a problem for them, you’re going to get the job first before anyone else. Your expert experience is on display for the whole world to see, and not on some stuffy CV that has been tuned with all the buzzwords that you think recruiters and the algorithms want to see. This is gamification in practice. You can’t gamify your career by sitting back and waiting for the right opportunity, as it may never come, you have to go and get it. – find that shot to take, and then take it, and make it, using as many of your power-up skills to help you as possible.
With these 4 steps, you will become at one with the game and your career will fly. And it works in almost every field, whether you’re Gordon Ramsay and mastering the art and science of food, or Elon Musk and trying to change the world to use renewable energy with a driverless electric car through his company Tesla as well as making space travel possible for ordinary people at much lower costs through his other company, SpaceX.
And this is what I did to change the game for me. I became a sought after expert with the ability to solve all sorts of very challenging problems differently from others, especially problems that no one else has solved before and many would not dare to try, within the ROOMs where I like to play and where I’m able to perform at my best. I have always loved playing games and applying strategies and tactics and this is the winning formula that I worked out – career gamification itself. It worked for me, it worked for Michael Jordan, Gordon Ramsay, Elon Musk and it will work for you too. So start now, and play, the game – go and gamify your career – and win.
Julie Choo is lead author of THE STRATEGY JOURNEY book (Coming in June/July 2019) and the founder of STRATABILITY ACADEMY. She speaks regularly at numerous tech, careers and entrepreneur events globally. Julie continues to consult at large Fortune 500 companies, Global Banks and tech start-ups. As a lover of all things strategic, she is a keen Formula One fan who named her dog, Kimi (after Raikkonnen), and follows football – favourite club changes based on where she calls home.