Broadly speaking we all want the same thing out of our careers: a great job doing what we love to do while being recognised and rewarded for it. That is undoubtedly what you are seeking for yourself. And hopefully what your employer also wants for you.
The fact is it’s up to you to make it happen. Here’s why:
1. We spend too long at work to be unhappy
What we do to earn money takes up a huge proportion of our time and affects many areas of our life. Think about how many hours you are likely to spend in work during the course of a working lifetime. Typically it’s about 70,000. That’s an awfully long time to be unhappy at work. Over 75% of our weekly energy is focussed on work – preparing for work, getting to work, talking about work and worrying about work. So it makes sense to devote time and energy to actively working on it and making it as satisfying as possible.
2. You can’t fully plan your career but you can influence how it evolves
Today’s organisations are constantly changing in response to changes in the economy, technology, competition and consumer demands. This in turn changes the way we work, the skills and jobs that are needed, and where they are located. The result of all that, is that careers are much less predictable and much more emergent than they used to be. As changes occur, opportunities arise that could never have been anticipated. So, instead of following a structured career path you need to get the most out of your current role and always be open to creating and identifying opportunities that will allow you to develop in the direction you’d like to go.
3. No-one else is going to manage your career for you
In the new world of work, careers are very different. It has been a long time now since companies were able to provide “hire to retire” job security and to guide employees right through their careers, organising their development and planning their promotion steps. Today, it falls to the individual to manage their career, deciding where they want to go, how to get there and which organisation or part of an organisation would be the best place to get that experience. That doesn’t mean that you won’t need the support of others – your boss, colleagues, HR, for example. But it does mean that it’s up to you to determine the support you need and then go about getting it.
4. Career success means different things to different people
For some people it’s about finding a way to continue learning. For others it’s about achieving recognition. For some it’s about moving into a job that’s more interesting and fulfilling. Being in control of your career means different things to different people. You need to decide what it means to you.
5. Managing your career is not all about changing organisations
Often people start thinking about their career when a crisis hits: they’ve been made redundant, had a low salary review or been passed over for promotion. But that’s almost the worst time to start thinking about your career as the emotion attached to it can cloud your thinking and the focus is often purely on getting a new job, invariably in a new organisation.
But managing your career is not all about changing organisations. It’s about adopting a strategic approach to developing your career in a certain direction and identifying/creating opportunities that will allow that development. It may be that those opportunities are available in a new organisation but it’s also possible that there are opportunities within your current organisation if you can only find them.
And that is why career management doesn’t stop once you get a job. In fact, getting the job is just the start of managing your career.