Career management is a hot topic in business, but how many people really think about what it means, who’s responsible for it, and how to go about it in an effective manner? If you ask your friends what they do to manage their career, how many can give you a coherent answer? What does career management mean to you, and what do you do to proactively manage your career?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to “manage” something means to handle or direct something with a degree of skill, to treat something with care, or to work upon or try to alter something for a purpose. Therefore, to effectively manage your career, you must skillfully direct your career with a purpose and with care.
A career that is successfully managed has a defined direction and objectives. Milestones and goals are set so that progress can be measured. Needs for growth and development are identified. Options and opportunities are assessed according to whether they are likely to move the career toward the vision.
On the other hand, a career that is not actively managed tends to meander. Direction may be changed and changed again, but without purpose or direction. Skills and abilities are not nurtured or cultivated. Opportunities may be missed, while others may be taken despite the fact that they do not bring meaning, enjoyment, or long-term progression.
Sometimes people think they do not have to manage their careers because their company will do it for them, but this is attitude can be self-defeating. You are your own best advocate. Do not relegate your advocacy, support, and best interest to anyone else. Take control, and make a commitment to yourself to be your own supporter and promoter.
Career management is not something you suddenly achieve, or a point where you say “I’m done!” It is part of the journey through life and work, something you do continually to ensure your career and life reflects and honors your strengths and who you are.
To effectively manage your career, you’ll first need to do some basic career planning: clarifying your vision of your career into the future, and identifying what skill gaps or other obstacles may be standing in your way. You will want to set some goals and milestones so you can track your progress.
Next, consider your personal brand at work. Does how you’re perceived in the office accurately reflect your strengths, value, and career aspirations? Take a look at what you’re known for, your physical appearance, the projects you’re working on, and when people ask for your advice and assistance. If these are in line with where you’re going, great. If not, it’s time for a personal brand make-over. These can take time, as you’ll need to pay attention to how you act, what you say, what you work on, and how you look over a period of time, and adjust as needed.
Finally, constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to grow in line with your career vision. While this includes promotions and job openings, also consider volunteering for projects or teams where you can gain additional critical skill sets, become known as an expert in an area aligned with your vision and interests, or gain you exposure with people who can help you in your career. Find a mentor within (or even external to) your organization and solicit their advice and knowledge regularly. Consider taking courses or getting certified if these actions are applicable to your situation.
Remember that career management is an ongoing process, and should be regularly reviewed, measured, and adjusted. Make it a priority, and direct your career with skill, purpose and care.