Starting something new is never easy, particularly when it’s the first entry for a brand spanking new blog! So to get things going, we thought we’d begin by telling you a bit more about why we founded Voco, and how we hope it will help you take control of your career and get what you want from work, whatever that might be.
Work is changing
We founded Voco on the knowledge that the world of work is changing. People now want to find new ways of working to ensure they are in control of their own career journeys - and that they engage in thinking about that journey on a regular basis, not just at times of crisis.
The move from ‘jobs for life’ to multi-company, multi-role or even portfolio careers has seen people depend more on support from outside their employer. The rise of the gig economy and freelancing has resulted in new challenges and opportunities for non-linear career development.
An increased focus on purpose and meaningful work has also fuelled a change in career journeys and higher expectations about what sense of fulfilment work should provide. In fact, 74% of people say they’re looking for a career with purpose.
The digitisation of many industries, sectors and jobs has meant people need to evolve and gain new skill sets or learn how to pivot effectively - and that they cannot rely on employers to provide the guidance and tools they need to do that. Technology has also created new roles, new approaches and new ways of working that all challenge traditional career journeys.
The embrace of mindfulness, wellness, flexibility and self-awareness has seen career development take on a new importance, as people seek to build careers and lives that work for them. And changes to the physical nature of work resulting from COVID 19; for example, more distributed workforces, virtual working, increased flexibility, less face-to-face time, will also have an impact on how people seek career guidance and support.
Against this background of change and uncertainty, we also realised that despite spending large portions of our lives at work, we often don’t invest in our own career journeys or know where to turn to do so.
What we knew for sure, however, that having the support of other people can be transformative in building a career you love. And when you love your job, everyone benefits: your employer, your colleagues, your friends and family, and mostly, you.
Harnessing the power of mentoring, on your own terms
75% of successful executives cite mentoring as being vital to their career success; and studies have shown that people who have a mentor are five times more likely to get promoted than those who don’t, while those who mentor someone else are six times more likely to move on up. Furthermore, nine in ten people involved in mentoring - in either direction - say they’re happy at work
“All of us are mentors. You're mentors right here and now. And one of the things I've always done throughout my life, I have always found that person, that group of people that I was going to reach my hand out and help bring them along with me.” - Michelle Obama
Mentoring is clearly extremely effective and a huge contributor to career success, but it can be hard to access on your own terms. Often workplace-based mentoring programmes are used by employers to address engagement issues or moments of crisis, and employees have little control over who mentors them or how the programme works.
And outside workplaces, traditional informal mentor relationships are generally asymmetric in nature, with the mentor being much more senior than the mentee, and seeking to impart their wisdom and guidance. While this is undoubtedly helpful in many situations, it can also create a power imbalance where the mentee feels obligated to accept advice without challenging it or feels guilty about asking for time or commitment from their mentor.
In addition, many mentors may have a different experience of the world of work, particularly on a societal level, and so may not be best placed to help steer career journeys in the evolving, changing world of work. And in some instances, mentoring can be based on patronage, favours and connections - all of which reinforce privilege and bias within career progression.
All of this led us to think that there must be another way to harness the power of mentoring on your own terms. And we believe the answer lies in bringing together peers to support each other and make work work better for everyone. If people have equal status and are equally bought into the journey, they can feel confident to challenge each other, to debate ideas, to provide guidance and support, and to learn from each other’s direct experiences within the current climate of work.
If people have the ability to form meaningful, effective and equitable relationships to help make progress, to find meaning, build confidence, address challenges or seize opportunities within their working lives, we think that over time they will be happier and more fulfilled in their careers.
Mentoring, coaching, networking… what’s the difference?
We care about how happy people feel about their careers and how work is working for them - and we think there are multiple ways to achieve that. While we started by thinking about how to make effective mentoring more accessible, we also know there’s value in coaching and networking - and we actually think it’s fine for the distinction between them to be a bit blurry.
A blend of the short-term, goal-setting philosophy of career coaching; longer-term encouragement and constructive feedback provided by mentoring, coupled with access to diverse and engaged networks of peers, can help people find really helpful sounding boards and support networks which, in turn, can help advance careers.
There’s value in simply making new connections and widening networks - this can increase cognitive diversity and spark new ideas and opportunities; while following structured coaching-like processes - which might focus on specific exercises and activities - can help people reach specific objectives and outcomes.
“Everyone needs a coach… We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve” - Bill Gates
The power of great conversation
Sometimes the simple act of talking to someone else can be the most transformative moment in taking control of your career. It can help people see their career journeys in a new light and to be clearer about what they’re looking for. It can help us reevaluate what work means to us, and it can spark new ideas and build confidence in decision making.
Having a diverse range of objective, experienced people to talk to - and to trust in - can be disproportionately helpful in challenging ingrained thinking and insecurities; in spurring us all on to do what we love.