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Aliza Knox on how to manage a successful career in today’s world

The tech executive, board director and Senior Advisor has a career that spans more than 40 years and she’s here to share her secrets to building a long and fruitful work life.

A quick glance at Aliza Knox’s LinkedIn profile suggests that there isn’t much she hasn’t achieved. Most notably, she’s held senior leadership positions at Twitter, Google and Cloudflare, with a firm footing in the financial services industry as well.

However, the breadth of her experience is also reflected in the string of accolades she’s earned in the world of tech, including IT Woman of the Year (Asia) in 2020.

When you meet Knox in person, you realise that Boston Consulting Group’s Senior Advisor is the ideal candidate to author a book, as she recounts conversations she’s had with mentees, colleagues and friends across all ages, genders and professions.

Knox’s recently released book Don’t Quit Your Day Job: 6 Mindshifts to Rise and Thrive at Work, is akin to a manual for professionals at any stage in their career who are looking to thrive more at work or understand how to successfully navigate the Great Resignation.

“There are a lot of open critical roles in most of the companies that I’m familiar with, so it’s really important for employers not only to attract new talent but to retain the talent that they have,” Knox says.

From “job dating” and asking for feedback to cultivating stamina and interests outside of our work, Knox believes that we are in a relationship with our career, where leisure and work are two sides of the same coin.

“Making room for non-work-related interests helps us get where we want to go and love all parts of our lives,” she says. “Your work and your passions are on the same team.”

“It’s normal to feel under-challenged or stagnant at times, but a prolonged feeling of being trapped in the wrong role can lead to decreased creativity, resignation and depression.” – Aliza Knox

In the same way that our partners can’t always provide us with everything we need, our professions don’t always meet all of our expectations 100 per cent of the time.

“If your career isn’t nurturing you right now, I think there is no substitute for having built up stamina over the years,” Knox says.

Whether you’re looking to ask for a promotion, to grow your existing skill set or migrate to the other side of the world, Knox’s advice is gleaned from a multitude of sources that serve as a point of reference for our own lives.

“I see the mindshifts in this book as timeless,” she explains. “They are based on my 40 years of work and of listening to and guiding people at all stages of their careers, from recent college grads and mid-career professionals to leaders within Fortune 100 firms.”

With a background in major tech companies that are often vertically structured, Knox is a firm believer in building “social capital”, a term she uses to describe developing strong, trusting relationships with managers, mentors, co-workers, employees and mentees.

“Building social capital across departments helps you get things done,” says Knox. “If you’re in sales and have a good relationship with someone in engineering, for example, and you want that person to spend extra time with a client discussing systems architecture, you’ll likely get a better response than you would if you lacked that strong connection.”

She also points out that “connections with peers and leaders can be as significant as work performance when it comes to rising and thriving, and that arguably the most important capital you can accrue in business is not financial capital, but social capital”.

“Just as organisations benefit from the skill sets and experiences of a diverse pool of experts, so does your career.” – Aliza Knox

Whether you’re a manager or an employee, the fundamental principles that underpin the book are a road map for everyone. While trending topics such as, “job crafting” and “job dating” can seem like they are only applicable for professionals considering a career change, Knox has a lot to offer for leaders who are in the midst of navigating the Great Resignation, beyond providing flexibility.

“Employees are leaving because there is more opportunity elsewhere. So if you can help them see that opportunity in your own firm that’s a great thing to do. It’s a good thing for employees to ask for and it’s a good thing for employers to think about providing,” she emphasises.

Some of the key questions employees are asking themselves at this point in time, according to Knox, are the following: “Is my company invested in me? Does my manager care? Are they trying to help me develop? Am I going to get something out of this company?”

Unlike many managers, Knox says she would encourage her team, if they were feeling stuck, to examine their options. This would give her employees the chance to re-evaluate their work situation and prove to themselves that they are in fact not as trapped as they first thought.

“When you go on a job date, even if you don’t leave, you meet all these people who want to talk to you and you start feeling better about yourself,” she points out. “Sometimes you’re going to come back going, ‘Maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence.’”

Aliza Knox’s four questions to ask yourself when you’re at a crossroad

Aliza Knox

Is this dissatisfaction common at this stage of my career?

“If so, you may need stamina to move through this phase and get into a role with more autonomy or authority,” she advises.

Knox also suggests asking friends at a similar stage in their career or your “personal board of directors”, which is a term she uses in her book to refer to a team of unpaid coaches who you select to help you navigate career issues.

“Just as organisations benefit from the skill sets and experiences of a diverse pool of experts, so does your career.”

What have I liked and disliked most about prior roles?

Consider which roles brought you the most satisfaction and assess what it was you enjoyed most about them to help you choose your next position.

If I’m being held back by fear of change, what’s the worst that can happen?

Knox highlights how analysing a worst possible outcome (which usually doesn’t occur) can allow you to feel more confident in taking a risk, as you realise you’ve exaggerated the fear in your mind.

“It’s normal to feel under-challenged or stagnant at times, but a prolonged feeling of being trapped in the wrong role can lead to decreased creativity, resignation and depression,” Knox explains.

Is there actually something better out there for me?

This is where “job dating” comes into play, which can help you gain clarity around whether your existing job or industry is suitable for you.

“Do some ‘job dating’ – go out and explore what’s out there (discreetly if necessary),” Knox suggests. “You may decide your existing job/industry is actually better than you thought, or this may lead to a move.”

Finally, Knox points out that making time for the things you care about can open the door to opportunity.

“Noticing the serendipity around you and acting on it can lead to amazing experiences in your personal life – and sometimes to career opportunities you never imagined,” she says.

Read next: Ortenzia Borre’s eight secrets to building your most rewarding life at work and home

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