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How your career management can take you onwards and upwards

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Towards Career Fitness
This is a guest article by Bookboon author Patrick Forsyth.

Pundits agree on one thing about the future of the work environment – it will be uncertain. The workplace is inherently competitive, those in it inherently vulnerable and presents dangers to anyone ignoring this. You cannot guarantee yourself career success, but you can positively influence your prospects; indeed surely you want to make time at work as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.

John Lennon’s line: Life is what happens while you are making other plans encapsulates a painful thought. There is perhaps no worse situation than to look back, saying to ourselves: “if only…”. 

So, in today’s work environment, with no rigid, preordained career ladder to follow, careers need planning: but how? There is sadly no magic formula. Details need working at. First you must know what you want, and this needs some systematic self-analysis.



1. Setting a course

There are several useful stages of thinking:

  • Assess your skills: you may be surprised how many you have in, for example everything from communications to problem solving and managing people or projects
  • Assess your work values: here you should consider factors such as having a:
    • Strong need to achieve
    • Need for a high salary
    • High job satisfaction requirements
    • Liking for doing something “worthwhile”
    • Desire to be creative, travel or be independent or in a team
  • Assess your personal characteristics: are you a risk taker, an innovator, or able to work under pressure, and how do such characteristics affect your work situation?
  • Assess your non-work characteristics: factors like family commitments, where you want to live and your attitude to time spent away from home.

Match your analysis to the market demands: consider realistically how well your overall capabilities and characteristics fit market opportunities. If computers, say, throw you, then you either have to learn or avoid areas of work demanding computer literacy.

With this clear, you can then set clear objectives; the old adage that if you do not know where you are going any road will do, is nowhere more true.
Then – aim high. You can always trade down, but may be more successful than you think and must avoid missing something not because it is unachievable, but because you don’t attempt it.



2. Perception is reality

Your achievement of results is also influential. Unless you deliver, then you are unlikely to be judged able to cope with more, and promotion and new opportunities may – rightly – elude you. But there’s more.

Consider an example: asked to manage an important and multifaceted project, someone may have every necessary characteristic, do the groundwork thoroughly and devise a sound plan. So far so good. Then they present to the Board.

If they are nervous, unsure how to prepare and it proves somewhat lackluster, what happens? Do people say, “Never mind, it was a sound plan”? No. More likely they question the ideas themselves, perhaps putting the plan on hold or dismissing it. And what happens with the next such project? They are never considered, with obvious impact on their career.

This makes an important point. Many skills are essentially career skills – important to doing an effective job, and also to how people are seen and progress.



3. Active career management

Thus there are many skills that should be regarded thus, these include:

  • All aspects of managing people
  • Presentation and business writing
  • Numeracy and computer skills
  • More general skills such as good time management.

Communication skills and, in some roles, creativity, are vital. You need to recognize what career skills can help you and ensure that you excel in them, focusing too on processes and aiming – and organizing – to benefit most from such as job appraisal and development.

Additionally, many other factors influence how you progress, for instance contacts and relationships. Be well connected, recognize that this does not just happen, and network consciously and systematically.



4. The way ahead

The active careerist relies not on good luck, though will take advantage of any that occurs (their planning and positive attitude to the process ensuring that they can do so). Most often successful careers do not just happen; they are made. Recognize this, take action and see career success as something you create.


Making active career management work

What is necessary is an all-embracing approach to what is essentially a life long campaign. Those who – while perhaps not achieving everything they want – get closest to their ideal:

  • Leave no stone unturned, and look at every detail of their work life in terms of its   career implications
  • Think through what they want to do and form clear objectives
  • Regard the miscellany of actions that constitute active career management as an integral part of life.

Patrick Forsyth is a consultant, trainer and writer. He is the author of many successful business books, and is about to publish his fourth eBook with Bookboon. Download his eBook “Towards Career Fitness” right here.

Towards Career Fitness