Elliott & Borghetti: the right way to plan your career

I don’t believe in planning your career. Neither does Virgin CEO John Borghetti who – after starting as a mail boy at Qantas with no desires to be an executive – now heads one of Australia’s biggest airlines.

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Pic: A Virgin Australia plane taking off

I recently sat down with John where we spoke about how he came to his current role and I found his experience revealing – and quite similar to ANZ’s incoming deputy CEO Alexis George. Neither had grand plans to be an executive.

"I think what you've got to do is focus on what you're doing now. You want to be the best at what you do, no matter what job it is.” - Borghetti

The idea current leaders did not have these well-thought-out career plans I find fascinating. Most people just kind of stumble into things and succeed from there. The key, according to John, is to make sure you’re the best at the job you’re currently in.

“I think that you've got to do is focus on what you're doing now,” he told me. “Focus on the job you’re doing and how well you can do it.”

“You want to be the best at what you do, no matter what job it is.”

What I would add to that, from my perspective, is not planning a career doesn’t mean not having any guiding principle. For me that guiding idea is about following a passion or an interest and keeping fresh and challenged.

You can hear more of our discussion on podcast below.

John says issues arise when people start a new job and immediately focus on how they are going to get their next promotion, at the cost of focus on your day to day tasks.

“I do think that eventually things catch up with you,” he said. “If you progress too fast and you're not ready, eventually you will hit a brick wall.”

We also spoke about culture, a word John “hates”, preferring instead to focus on “atmosphere”. Too much focus on culture can create a business environment which is too inward-looking, he says.

Still, John realises the importance doing the right thing – and says it’s a pretty simple equation.

“If you do the right thing to your customers, you do the right thing for your staff, you do the right thing to people… it has to have a positive effect,” he says.

Shayne Elliott is CEO at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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