Be at your best: How to look after the things that really matter

“There’s too much talk about the pace of change in the workplace being a bad thing. In truth, it’s more positive – find your space in the change and roll with it.” - Sally Hemming

Finding your niche in the workplace, staying in that position, and being valuable to your company is a satisfying and fulfilling achievement. But it’s one that’s looking rarer in the future, as the nature of work is changing faster than we have time to define it. We see it in the way people change careers (not just jobs) nearly twice as frequently as their parents did, according to a Journal of Business and Psychology study. It’s also in the way automation is set to replace roles in certain industries, and in the way we seek out flexibility to work wherever we want, or need to.

These disruptions have a huge impact on organisations. While some businesses commit time and funding to training and re-training their staff, many don’t. That places the responsibility for career development, firmly in the hands of individuals. It means taking a self-determined and self-reliant approach to your career, and it calls for a certain amount of resilience in the face of an increasingly ambiguous future of work. For individuals, it means:

• Being able to put yourself first in order to be the best version of you

• Learning how to adapt to changing environments, and how to be flexible

• Applying these qualities to the groups in which you work to add value

• Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sense of self, to enable you to do all of the above.

Refine your skillset to diversify your employability

Sally Hemming is an Associate Director for Employee Relations in the Talent team at EY, who believes that these qualities are crucial for individuals working today.

“People still get nervous about the idea of ‘resilience’ and being self-reliable. When we talk about it in the workplace, we’re not advocating selfishness or dominance, but self-awareness. Employers may help but they can’t do it all – they can only help enable your personal fulfillment.”

She also believes individual diversity is often downplayed and undervalued.

“Too often, professionals feel an expectation to be ‘something and everything’ – which is impossible. We can put too much pressure on ourselves to all be the same. People shouldn’t be afraid to be who they are; everyone’s wired differently with unique skillsets.”

At EY in particular, we’re helping people achieve this through our Health EY THRIVE initiative, and our Inclusive Leadership Training. In THRIVE, we explore what wellbeing means, and encourage people to evaluate their own sense of it through a support network that includes a series of webinars and ongoing learning materials. Are there areas they think they could be putting in more effort – or even scaling back on some commitments in order to get more out of others? Being resilient and self-reliant is about limiting behaviours that might negatively impact our wellbeing too, such as checking emails on weekends.

“We don’t want to change who people are, we just want them to be at their best and to genuinely see them thrive. The reality is that in order for that to happen, people need to believe they are the number one priority. At EY, we’re prepared to provide back-up support that empowers and enables that.”

Taking responsibility means being in control

For many, the ambiguity of the future of work is daunting, but this is one way you can ensure you’ve got the flexibility and confidence to cope with it. It’s simply a matter of taking responsibility for your career – or careers! Here are some tips that aim to demystify how to achieve a greater sense of self-reliance:

Assess your skills objectively. Focus on your strengths and the myriad ways you can apply them – in any work context.

Lose ideals of perfection. We can often set ourselves immense, long-term goals, thinking they’ll provide the impetus to drive our development, when really setting smaller, incremental goals can be more effective. Re-evaluate your own expectations to something more achievable and satisfying, even if others are setting you more wide-ranging tasks.

Question your assumptions. Is technology really helping you live and work the way you want? Do you believe that working out of hours is beneficial to your progression, or are there more productive ways to go about it? Sometimes we can get into a self-defeating rut, without ever noticing.

Be accountable for your own progression. Seek out new opportunities, whether it involves training, finding a mentor to guide you through, or even volunteering to share your expertise to help your colleagues.

Unplug from tech. Turn your phone to ‘flight mode’, leave your laptop at work, and enjoy time without the distractions of the internet. Try to be as present as possible when you’re at work, but especially when you’ve switched off for the day./

Get more sleep, exercise, and eat well. These go without saying, but we always need reminding

The reality of self-reliance is that it enables you to be flexible and adaptable to the changes that will arise at work. But in truth, it can have a positive knock-on effect that enhances every part of your life. All that’s left to decide, is are you ready to find your space in the change, and roll with it?