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Introducing the Career Cycle

Learning Objective

Students will understand the concept and purpose of the Career Cycle. This includes the six key steps to support their professional success in terms of how to:

  • Identify their dream job
  • Prepare for it
  • Win the selection process
  • Negotiate the best terms possible
  • Make the best first impression on joining  
  • Succeed in the job and get promoted


Graduating with a degree from University or College is a major achievement!

However, based on the statistics we just covered in the previous topic it is clear that although a degree is a tremendous asset, it is by itself very unlikely to land you the job of your dreams – or determine how well you will perform in that job.

Career success will require that you become good at a number of very specific additional activities.

You also need to do them at the right time – many of them long before graduation. The Career Cycle identifies these activities and explains why they are so important. It also shows you how and in what order they need to be carried out by dividing them into an easy to follow six phase process.

See diagram below:

At the center of the cycle are the top ten core attitudes that will not only help you succeed but are ones that employers increasingly base their hiring decisions on. You will likely already have a general idea of the importance of having a “good” attitude versus a “bad” one. However, do you know what specific attitudes are expected from you by the employers you wish to join—or how to convincingly demonstrate those attitudes when you meet them? Employers want to make sure you have their desired attitudes because (rightly or wrongly) many believe it is more difficult to teach you new attitudes and easier to teach you new skills.

Then come some critical abilities such as your interpersonal, networking, goal setting, and aligning skills, which you need to be able to apply in each of the activity phases defined on the outside of the cycle. These skills rarely occur naturally. They need to be deliberately learned, practiced, and applied constantly. Even a small improvement in any of these skills can have very positive consequences.

You will be able to use these skills to make appointments, connect and build relationships with people to create a network that will help you—(and actually enjoy the process of doing so!)

Note: These skills are also specifically sought after by employers and tested for during the selection process.

On the outside of the cycle are six key phases of activity.

Phase 1: Targeting jobs

According to an After College study in 2015, 83% of students graduate with no job lined up. Obviously, this varies greatly by college, major and, geographic location. However, the common factor is that they have not developed a strong enough interest in any particular job to prepare their relevance before graduating. As a result, they tend to create generic resumes and social media profiles that are not highly compelling to any employer. This is a key reason why so many graduates subsequently take a long time to land a job—and when they finally do—it is often one they don’t like.

People think they are encouraging you when they say “You can be anything you want!”

However, without a “specific dream job” in mind, it is difficult to find it—or know how to become the “dream candidate” for it.

Deciding what you want to do involves building a sufficiently large network of the right people and gaining specific information from them about what they do every day so that you can make an informed decision.

Note: Time is critical. Some convince themselves there is no urgency because they believe the thirties are the new twenties—there is plenty of time! Others simply do not like the idea of networking or just don’t know how—so they put it off. Either way, you can pay a high price in your thirties and beyond for drifting through your twenties as you realize that your resume will not help you land a job that meets your expectations in responsibility, fulfillment, and pay.

This phase, therefore, involves developing a greater understanding of:

  • The kind of jobs that are in demand, which interest you, and you are likely to find enjoyable
  • The type of people you will fit well with into a team and enjoy working for
  • The type of industry that would give you a sense of purpose
  • The skill strengths required to land and succeed in the jobs that interest you

The course will cover exactly what questions to ask your network to gather the above type of information. This is the best way to narrow down your choice of target jobs and career.

It can be helpful to visualize that information as a Venn Diagram below:

Once you have target jobs in your sights, (i.e. where the circles overlap in the center), this phase shows you how to build a strong motivational vision of your desired future . This will give you the excitement and energy and drive you need to prepare your unique relevance in the next phase.

Note: A common interview question is “Why do you want this job?” The answer lies in the above circles. Being able to describe how you built a network to get the information you needed to make an informed logical decision you are committed to, will reassure an interviewer. An inability to do so may lead an interviewer to conclude you are randomly applying to any job you can find – not reassuring!

Phase 2: Preparing for a job

Once you have decided on which jobs you want to target, you set yourself goals to develop the specific skills and experience you will need.

The goals you set and achieve now will define your future.

Failing to target and therefore failure to prepare yourself for the specific needs of any employer is one of the main causes of underemployment. It can result in many wasted years of drifting and a common late twenties or early thirties “life crisis” as you feel increasingly left behind. Deciding what you want to do next, and finding out how you will have to prepare to be able to do what you want next—is a career-long discipline.

At any stage in your career, when an employer asks “Why should we select you?” they want to know about the goals you set and achieved to prepare yourself to become their ideal candidate.

Note: An absence of well-thought-out goals raises an immediate red flag during any interview.

This phase, therefore, includes the following key actions:

  • Understanding how your target job creates value for the organization and how it is measured
  • Understanding what skills, attitudes, and achievements your target employers believe you will need so you can deliver that value
  • Building the above skills, attitudes, and experience you know your target employers will specifically look for
  • Developing your story and elevator pitch
  • Documenting your relevance on social media profiles such as LinkedIn
  • Preparing specific tailored high-impact resumes that get you interviews
  • Building references and briefing them with specific details to support your targeted job campaigns

Phase 3: Winning the selection process

When it comes to engaging with an employer in the selection process, many of you will check out an employer’s website, show up for an interview and do your best to answer questions. Most of you will leave the interview hoping to be told how you did at some point in the future.

There is a great deal more you can do to increase the odds in your favor. Phase 3 covers a range of techniques to help you understand the selection process in as much detail as possible so you can rehearse and practice key steps. It covers how you develop a rapport with the interviewer plus how to give and take control of the conversation. It shows you how to get immediate feedback to guide you on target with your answers, and a simple four-step structure to drive your way to an offer. See Diagram Below:

This is a very handy structure to keep in mind as you prepare for and go through any interview. Along the horizontal axis is the time and effort you spend going through four key steps. As you successfully do so the employer’s desire to hire you increases up the vertical axis. Your objective is to work your way up the blue diagonal line following the arrows over four critical thresholds to land a job offer!

In the first step (Connect) you use your interpersonal skills to successfully pass over their like and trust threshold. Once you have connected and made the interviewer feel you are likely to be a good fit with them and their team, you cross the first threshold and earn their approval to go to the second step. If the interviewer does not like you and feel comfortable with you then the rest of the interview will be a polite formality.

In the second step you ask many questions to make sure you identify the skills, fit and drive requirements of the job. Not every job opportunity will come with a detailed job description. Even if they do it is important that you demonstrate through your questions that you understand what the job involves, how the results are measured and the impact of success versus failure. This is important for two reasons. First employers will not listen to your strength statements if they do not believe you understand their needs. Second, it is very easy to start talking about irrelevant strengths and miss important ones if you have not clearly established their needs first.

Once you have crossed the credibility threshold you earn their approval to go to step three and start matching your strengths to their needs. Do not attempt to do this with generic claims about how great you are. Use well structured and concise examples called S.O.A.R.s which stands for the Situation you were in, the Objective you were tasked with, the Actions you took and the Results you achieved. The more relevant the examples are to the job the more impact they will have.

If you do this well you cross the suitable for employment threshold. At this point you are a strong candidate but still need to differentiate yourself to ‘get to the one.’

In step four you close their selection process by triggering a “This is who we want!’ emotion. You do this by demonstrating that you can help them with one of their top priorities or challenges. Again you have to find out what their priorities are first by good questioning and prior research – and then use a relevant S.O.A.R. to match. If you do this well you will see the change in facial expression and body language as the interviewer visualizes you helping them achieve their objectives. That is the time you can take the initiative and ask for the job!

This is a simple but very effective structure to avoid being either too passive, or too focused on your strengths without building a relevant context for them. It helps you manage a balanced conversation primarily around their needs and then position what you can do to help them.

Note: The real magic of this structure is that its use is not limited to the interview. You should be aware that a good networker can cross all the above thresholds prior to an interview.

Make sure you are that networker!

This phase, therefore, covers the following key actions:

  • Understanding the hiring process including who the key decision makers and influencers are
  • Understanding what the decision makers care about most, and what they will base their decisions on
  • Preparing answers backed by examples of the most likely questions
  • Preparing questions of your own to bring up needs you already know exist and for which you have demonstrable skills to match
  • Practicing steps such as video interviews, mock face to face interviews and presenting your case
  • Connecting with the interviewer and matching your personality
  • Learning question answering techniques, interview control and gaining immediate feedback
  • Crossing the four key thresholds to trigger a “This is who we want!” reaction

Phase 4: Negotiating good compensation

It is very understandable if you are just too nervous to risk the job by going into the Negotiation phase for the pay you deserve, especially if you have been without a job for some time. In any case, do you know how to negotiate? The financial impact can be very significant and affect your future earnings for years! The increase in starting pay continued over three to five years can easily make the difference between being able to save for a down payment on a house—or not.

This phase, therefore, covers the following key actions:

  • Understanding where negotiating power comes from
  • Maximizing your negotiating power with unique value
  • Prompting an offer
  • When to negotiate plus some specific negotiating tactics
  • Closing the deal

Phase 5: Joining the team

Very few applicants think ahead about how to integrate during the initial Join phase. Remember your boss will have expectations about you based on what you said during the selection process. It is also very likely they will have shared those expectations with their boss, the rest of the team and anyone whose work will be affected by you—as they explained who was selected to fill the position and why. You need to know those expectations in detail! Without taking some very deliberate steps to revisit those expectations and turn them into agreed objectives it is very easy to get off to a poor start that disappoints everyone, especially your boss. It can alter how you are regarded and treated from then on. This can impact your confidence, promotion prospects and even trigger a downward spiral.

Some people never recover from their poor joining phase, which is why they are soon on the job market again.

This phase, therefore, covers the following key actions:

  • Critical steps you must complete in your first days
  • Establishing the right professional relationship and communication with your boss
  • Strengthening your understanding of the business, culture, people, processes, and customers
  • Aligning and integrating

Phase 6: Performing well

At the end of the day, what employers want more than anything else, is people who get the job done. It all boils down to you achieving your objectives and thereby helping them achieve theirs.

This phase, therefore, covers the following key actions:

  • Learning a ten-step achievement methodology, including how to solve problems, that you can apply to any situation
  • Getting your over performance recognized and documented
  • How to recover when you make a mistake and upset your boss
  • Adding to your value by looking for additional opportunities to help and do more
  • Continuing your relevant skills development
  • The basics of management and leadership
  • Identifying your internal customers and turning them into references

Note: The stronger your reputation for being the “go to” person for getting things done, the more valuable and successful you will become. Future interviewers will look for evidence of this. Having credible references such as a previous boss attest to your “get the job done” attitude and skills with relevant examples is one of the best ways to trigger a “This is who we want!” reaction.

Getting Promoted – Repeating The Cycle

After you have completed the cycle and clearly performed beyond expectations for a while, you can target your next job by restarting the cycle.

This could either be a promotion or another job that will give you the experience and skills you need to reach your next career goals.

Phase 1 – Targeting the promotion

Getting promoted is a clear validation of your performance. However, relying only on your performance to get promoted is a mistake. Just because you perform well in a job at one level does not necessarily mean you are suitable for another job at a higher level.

If you want to be promoted, you have to employ the skills and actions in the Career Cycle to make it happen or it probably won’t—regardless of how well you perform.

You therefore transition from Phase 6 back to repeat Phase 1 with the following actions:

  • Proactively networking (both within the organization and in other similar organizations), to identify different promotion opportunities
  • Learning what activities people in those positions spend most of their time in
  • Understanding what types of personalities and skill profiles succeed most in those positions
  • Making a well researched decision on which specific promotion opportunities you want to target

Phase 2 – Preparing for the promotion

Gallup has also identified that promotions lead to a disappointing performance 82% of the time! This further underlines the need to continue to use a process such as the Career Cycle to ensure you land the right promotion after properly preparing for it.

Future employers will search for evidence that other employers judged you to be promotable, preferably twice within the same organization. They want to see that you were able to grow and succeed at higher levels. They also need to feel your desire to be promoted because they know it fuels your motivation to do any job well.

All other attributes being equal, employers will pick the candidate that can demonstrate a strong desire and history of being promoted.

Phase 2 is therefore repeated with the following actions:

  • Understanding how the higher position creates value and how that value is measured
  • Developing your skills and relevance for the specific, targeted promotion opportunity
  • Further developing management and leadership skills
  • Repositioning your brand and reputation to match the promotion
  • Making sure your current manager and other key positions support your targeted promotion campaign

The cycle continues with Phase 3 – Win, using the same four steps to perform well in the interview for the promotion, followed by Phase 4 – Negotiate to secure a new level of compensation, then Phase 5 – Join to align to a new team, and finally Phase 6 – Perform to demonstrate your competence at a higher level. After a while you restart the Career Cycle again with Phase 1 – Target to search for your next promotion. 

See diagram below:

In the above diagram you can see that the objective is to complete as much of the Career Cycle while a student to help you align and transition into becoming an employee as quickly as possible on graduating. You repeat the cycle as an employee to help you transition into management and leadership.

This is how you use the Career Cycle to drive your career path.

Common Sense

Much of this course can be regarded as little more than common sense. However the statistics speak for themselves—these actions are not common practice. Although I hope this course will provide you with many useful insights, this is not the typical academic course to teach you new theories.

It is primarily a roadmap for you to take action so that you graduate with a job offer in hand rather than just the knowledge of how to land one.

I have divided the lessons into short topics and natural break points to make the journey easier.

The lesson on “What Employers want” gives you a better understanding of how employers think, what they search for, and how to differentiate yourself in terms that are compelling and meaningful to them.

The lesson on “Align To Shine” covers the skills that lay the foundation for the rest of the course and indeed the rest of your career. This includes the interpersonal skills you need so you can build trusting relationships, understand people’s needs and communicate effectively—persuasively.

Each lesson then follows the six key phases on the outside of the Career Cycle.


Depending on where you are in the Career Cycle right now, you may need urgent guidance on a particular subject. If you want, you can jump straight to your relevant topic, such as networking, resume writing, interviewing, negotiation skills, briefing references and so on. However each of these topics, when taken alone, become tactics, and as you know, tactics are far more effective when they are part of an overall strategy.


Those who gain employment quickly and move up fast are not necessarily born with greater talent. They’re not just lucky either. They are people exactly like you who have mastered the required skills and discipline to take the right actions at the right time.

If you follow the process described in the Career Cycle, you will have a clearer vision of your desired future—and the steps you will need to take to reach that future.

Meanwhile, poor execution or omitted steps in any one of the phases can severely hold you back and even tip you into a downward spiral. Think “weakest link.” You can be extremely talented and highly qualified, but if you fail to demonstrate the right attitudes, if your interpersonal skills prevent you from connecting with your interviewer, or if you fail to prepare or demonstrate your competitive edge for a job in a compelling manner, you are not going far.

The skills, actions, and understanding in this course will be highly relevant to you for both your immediate success and your ability to sustain long-term success as you start new cycles at higher levels. Everything you learn in this course about “getting to the one” will also help you “select the one” when it is your turn to build a team and lead it.

Your mission is to jump on the fast track and Career Cycle to the top!

This course shows you how.

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