Managing Your Career – What Works

Career Management

#1 Introduction

In my 30+ years in the recruiting profession, I watched career management evolve. Since becoming a full-time coach (2000), I have paid closer attention to career issues facing the aspiring employee.

At the beginning, the big companies had “corporate ladders” you needed to climb.  Following the rules and the steps (read “career plan’) gave the employee a “shot” at being promoted.  Politics held sway.  Organizations also rewarded loyalty and dedication.  Long hours mattered if you were going to move up.  Stability and reliability were key measures. A person’s ability to master a single skill was highly prized.  Companies would use “golden handcuffs” to retain key employees.  I ran into this a recruiter.  Targeted candidates would often be extremely unhappy but were “locked in” and had few career options.  There were outlandish examples that have become legend.  One example comes to mind.  There was a chip designer who was so “irreplaceable” that he could live in Mexico all expenses paid plus his salary.  He just sent his designs whenever he was ready.

Over time, career management began to change.

Today, the corporate career ladder has gone the way of the dinosaur. The work environment changes very quickly.

Perhaps the term “war for talent” rings a bell. Companies are focusing on the best way to keep the “best people”.  More and more organizations are looking to develop the employee.  As a recruiter, there were candidates I approached who said no because they were in a succession plan to be promoted.  It was not about the money.

The biggest change I have observed over time is most of the burden of career management planning and development originates with the employee.  However, there are no guarantees to promotion by the organization.  Certification in a training program or getting an advanced degree such as an MBA does help.  The big proviso is that they help your career advancement.  A common question I receive at a speaking engagement is “Should I get an MBA?”  My standard response is a question: “What are your career goals? Does an MBA position you for your next move?”  Granted, it is my own count here but only one attendee who asked that question had a career plan or an idea of what they wanted to do with the degree. I don’t know about you, but in my view, education overall is too pricey today from a resource and time investment not to have an end goal.

Let’s look at this career planning and career management from another angle. An FYI, career planning is a subset of career management.  In the 1967 movie “The Graduate”, the one word of advice to Benjamin Braddock was “Plastics”.  It meant nothing to him because it was irrelevant.  The term meant nothing to me and other graduates searching for jobs at the time. Like Ben many of us were quite worried about our future but many of us knew that plastics was not it.

Today the one word is “relevance”.  We do not live in a vacuum. A resume that stands alone is merely a document until it clearly shows your relevant skills for a specific need/job description.  How relevant are your strengths and values to the needs of others?  Although this sounds harsh and cold.  Consider that each person you meet filters what you say with the questions: “Why should I care?  Do your words mean anything and do they matter to me?”  At the end of the day, you connect with people that matter to you and you matter to them.

The previous paragraph is relevant because your career management must matter to you first.  It starts with you.  Then you look at how to implement.  More organizations are asking “What do want to do?” They are moving beyond what you can do and certainly away from what you are supposed to do.

NEXT:  #2 We will go into greater detail with the definitions of career management and career planning.




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