Career management – 10 steps for managing your own career

Proactive career management

young musician on the road to success

There is no such thing as a career any more.

The world of work is now much more fluid than it was. Gone are the days of jobs for life where you did your time and left with a secure pension to see out your days (when I reflect on this it sounds more like a prison sentence than a fulfilling life). You now need to take responsibility for your job security and career management, make sure you discover and utilise your innermost resources and take a self directing approach.

However it is not all bad news. The spectrum of opportunity is in many ways much larger. You’ve just got to make sure you recognise an opportunity when it comes your way. Here are 10 steps for career management that will help you to prioritise what is important.

1. Have the mindset of managing your own business.

When I worked for a big corporate the most successful people where those who thought of themselves as the managing director of their business (Me PLC). This made them proactive in managing their career and keeping themselves employable by getting results.

2. Invest in your own business.

The best investment a business can make is in developing its people. The people who are going to survive and thrive in today’s market are the ones who develop and enhance their skills, abilities and capacity to learn.

3. Maintain visibility.

Make sure your good work and successes are noticed. You may find that people don’t like you for it as they may perceive you as self-promoting. But it is you that will flourish whilst they stay stuck and ignored. Make sure you know how to demonstrate that you make a difference and add value. No one else is going to blow your trumpet!

4. Network actively

Build your network of contacts both within and outside your company. Make sure you add value to your network before you ask them to add value for you. If you can generate good will you can leverage this to help you take advantage of positive situations and help you get out of difficult spots. You’ll also be surprised at how many career opportunities are available amongst your network.

5. Scan the market

Keep an eye on the job market within your organisation and how it is developing in the industry as a whole. Look at possible other avenues too – sideways steps with the same skills but in a different industry which excites you. Make sure you understand and appraise what you already have in terms of remuneration (quantitative rewards such as pay and pension etc) and fulfilment (qualitative rewards such as work that has meaning and development opportunities).

6. Keep interview skills current

The ‘moment of truth’ in many career opportunities is the selection interview process. It’s probably more difficult and nerve-wracking to do oneself justice if the experience of an interview is a distant memory. Some people will go for an interview every year to make sure their skills are current and effective!

7. Manage relationships well

Remember that as a self directing professional you are managing your boss as well as the other way around and the way you deal with your peers is key to your success. Emotional intelligence is now regarded as an important component of organisational life. Technical ability alone is no longer enough.

8. Prioritise and balance your needs

It is extremely rare to have everything you want at the same time. Sometimes you need to manage a situation where, although all your needs aren’t completely met, you are working towards a situation where they will be. Occasionally you have to do something that you don’t particularly like doing in order to secure what you really want. Over time our needs change so it is a continual balancing act to re-evaluate our priorities.

9. Manage change to your advantage

Change is inevitable and it appears to accelerate all the time. You may be able to deny it in your private life, often at a large cost later, but in business terms to not catch the wave means you could be wiped out. Necessary change in skills required, working practices, technology etc will happen. Just look at what has happened in terms of social media in the last few years! You have the choice to respond flexibly to it by using it to your advantage rather than letting it disable you. Look for the opportunities it gives. For instance nowadays there is always the opportunity to outsource work you don’t want to do! (Check out Elance.com, Odesk.com and Fiverr.com)

10. Have a fall-back plan

Sometimes stuff happens, unforeseen and random, that shakes our world. One such thing may be a job loss through no fault of our own. It happens to the best of us.

It pays to have a Plan B which has been sufficiently thought out and ready to go. Otherwise the shock, stress and anger of the event may propel you into making decisions when you are not thinking straight. Your Plan B could be the safety net that catches you and allows you to respond to the situation with clarity, direction and possibly panache!

What’s your approach to career management and what do you think are the most important things to consider when managing your career in today’s job market?

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