Career Management Part 6

#6 The challenges and obstacles in career management/planning

No one ever said this would be easy

Unless you live on Mars, we have witnessed the change from an industrial economy to an information economy. As organizations become flatter, the corporate ladder is being replaced by the matrix.

A solid career plan works very nicely in matrix. But the bulk of the success is powered by you.

Developing a career plan is an effective way to keep learning and developing.  You will look forward to going to work.  The plan will define the steps to improve your skills (both hard and soft).  learn how to better engage common roadblocks such as age or a lack of experience.  As a coach, I have heard a common refrain from my senior clients” I am just too old”.  The other common woe is “I don’t have the right experience”.

So, what about age?

There is some good news here.  You can start a plan at any age.  including making a horizontal shift after you’ve hit middle age. Older employees bring knowledge and experience, but do not embrace the new technologies.  Automation is pervasive in every aspect in a company.  Can the senior employee help integrate automation (yes robots) into company’s systems and infrastructure? You bet. All organizations have only two needs: revenue and productivity.  Think beyond the job descriptions.  Ask yourself (and the interviewer), how does this job relate to the company’s basic needs.  Even if you are employed, “how does your job impact those two needs”?  I often ask my clients: “What kind of problems do you want to solve?” The answer to that question can help in creating your career plan.

Knowledge is Power

Career paths require additional knowledge such as industry trends, the latest in technology, current best practices and thinking. Participating in LinkedIn discussion groups who actively talk about what’s happening both now in your current position but also what is happening in your target career area. What else do you need to meet your career target?  Consider additional education, obtaining selected experience or exposure, specialized training.  Talk to people who are doing your targeted job now.  Ask them for their advice.  Asking for advice is in of the greatest compliments you can pay anyone.

Politics

“I hate company politics” a client would exclaim.  Or better yet: “I am not politics kind of person”.  My response is always: “Do you want to learn how to be more effective dealing with politics?  And I wait for an answer.  Gone are the days when an employee was measured only on results.  Many interpret that networking is succumbing to back stabbing politics.  Create your own reality if you must. But, career management does rely on who you know.  And those you know need to be stakeholders in your success and be totally supportive of your career planning efforts. Start building your network both inside and outside your organization.  Figure out who is in your alliance and who is not. You will probably make the closest connections with those you share your values. Through social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, follow the key leaders who are the players and who you admire.  They may be in a discussion group in which you are member.  Ask them if you can continue a group discussion offline.  The first rule of networking begs the question: “What do you have in common?”

Changes and you.

There is an old joke:  “Change is good.  You go first”.

Yes, all of us resist change to some degree or other. It is uncomfortable and distracting. But it is important to embrace change.  Career planning/management can help you minimize the rocking of your boat.  With every big change, such as downsizing, acquisition, reorganization etc., there is opportunity.  The biggest reason for this is that most employees go into fear mode.  Many simply do not know what will happen next. It was the author HP Lovecraft who said: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”.  With a solid career plan, you have the strengths and wherewithal to know where you are going. You are running towards a goal when the change was announced. Because of the change, you may be able to capitalize on an opportunity at your current company.

You know where the industry is now and where it is going. And you can reasonable predict where your organization fit and what lies ahead.

With a solid career plan, you are prepared for anything.

You don’t have the experience

If the term, “lack of experience” is thrown at you as an obstacle, it means that you don’t have the hard skills or a track record.  For example, we hear a lot about the importance of specialized “hands on” technical skills.  Keep in mind that most employers tend to over hire when it comes to skills.  They discount anyone who is willing to learn – especially if they have the right attitude (read work ethic) and share values with the corporate culture.  You can certainly gain experience in volunteering for programs both in your company and outside.  Keep a record of when you were a quick student learning something new.  Be sure that this quality is known in your network. Join a Meetup group where you can learn a new technology or process and network with people.

We can list other challenges to career planning/management as well:  first time managers leading former peers and transitioning from a command and control style to more of influencing and building alliances are just two.

Your development as a professional will be your “holy grail”.  You know who you are and where you are going.  Most organizations value a career plan.  This is one of the main ways they use to retain top talent.  By developing it.

You will fit in nicely — with you and them.

Up next: #7 The Seven Phases of a Career — which phase are you in now?

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