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Integrating Innovation into Career Planning

By Autumn McClenaghan on Mar 26, 2014

innovation-careerOne of the most recent trends in career planning is the integration of innovation as a concrete skill demanded by today’s employers. The word is popping up more frequently in job descriptions and even official titles. In fact, a quick search using the term returns over 1,600 results on Indeed.com and over 5,000 on LinkedIn. But what exactly is innovation and how does it apply to your career search?

The word itself has many definitions but generally innovation is considered the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs or existing market needs. Depending on your career field, this could mean developing faster software, creating a more detailed marketing campaign, or even recreating business to meet changing operational needs. No matter the industry, innovation is necessary and constantly evolving to adapt to new processes and ideas.

Skills and characteristics that are commonly listed in innovation job descriptions include strategic thinking, creativity, market knowledge, project management and product development. Other phrases found in results from the top online networking sites include, “innovative candidates who can identify new opportunities,” “transform ideas into new offerings,” and “identify innovation strategies and action plans.” Here is a short list of official job titles that have found their way into organizational charts:

  • Growth and Innovation Manager
  • Innovation Analyst
  • Director of Product Innovation
  • Business Development Innovation Manager
  • Senior Marketing Manager of Innovation and Renovation
  • Innovation Process Manager

This trend teaches job seekers that it is important to be prepared to discuss and highlight your role in developing, implementing or creating anything new in your professional experience on your resume and in the interview. Of course be sure to read any job description you are considering applying for thoroughly to determine if your experiences meet the qualifications.

In addition to these recommendations, employers may also take a candidate’s personality into consideration when determining if their company is the right fit for the individual. The Five Personalities of Innovators: Which One Are You? By Brenna Sniderman from Forbes is a great article for any job seeker. Here is a short summary of each personality:

  • Movers and Shakers – These individuals have a strong personal drive and are often described as leaders. Although they are often motivated by goals and rewards, an overall major incentive for this group of workers is the idea of creating a legacy and influencing others. Overall they comprise 22% of total executives.
  • Experimenters – Personnel considered as experimenters are very open minded and often are perfect for bringing in new ideas through various phases of development and execution. One of the most frequently used adjective to describe these workers is persistent and they are often known for their high dedication. They tend to be risk takers and comprise 16% of executives.
  • Star Pupils – The most recognizable image of a star pupil is that kid in the front row of the class in school who was often considered as the class pet. They ruined the test curves and are generally successful at nearly everything including developing their personal brands, seeking out and cultivating the right mentors and identifying the right networking opportunities. Unsurprisingly these individuals tend to be CEOs, comprising 24% of corporate executives.
  • Controllers – The category name describes the workers in this group perfectly. They are uncomfortable with risk, and prefer to have everything in the right place. Controllers are often seen in sales, marketing and finance roles and populate the more practical part of the corporate ladder. They are the smallest group overall, comprising 15% of executives.
  • Hangers-On – Although the name may not seem ideal to most, these individuals are there to bring others down to earth and tether them to reality. Similar to controllers, they do not particularly like unstructured environments and fall within the middle range on most decision-making spectrums. While they comprise 23% of all executives, they cluster strongly in financial roles within companies.

How do these five personalities travel through the corporate hierarchy and how do they relate to innovation?

No one group can be considered the purest “entrepreneurial group,” but Movers and Shakers and Experimenters may be the closest. They have the strongest tendency to be internally driven, in control and bridle the most at others telling them what to do. Younger, more innovative firms generally need Movers and Shakers at the top, channeling the energy of Experimenters into a vision that can be implemented. As organizations grow larger and more established, however, they need Star Pupils who can translate that vision into a strategy and lead it forward, Controllers who can marshal the troops to execute it and Hangers-On who can rein it in. A firm reaching maturity has greater need for strong processes, as well as those who value control.

As we’ve seen time and again, unbridled innovation is a wonderful thing. But it’s what comes next that’s arguably more important. To get an innovative idea off the ground, it’s crucial to have a cast of characters who can keep that tension between risk-taking and reality at a healthy balance midway between the sky and the ground — where innovation can thrive.

Which of the five personalities of innovation are you?

Topics: Career, Student Life


Author Autumn McClenaghan of Brandman University

Autumn McClenaghan

As the Director of Career Planning and Development at Brandman University, I work with students to help them reach their career goals. I invite you to subscribe and revisit the Brandman Blog to find information and stories about professional development topics such as resume building, job interviews, career planning, social media and more!