Your career is your journey through life, learning and work. Career management is about self-assessment, research and the structured planning, realisation and evaluation of that journey.Your career is nobody else’s responsibility but yours. If you want to succeed you need to actively manage it.
Here are the core stages of career management:
Firstly, you need to know what you are good at and what you are not; what you like and what you don’t. So consider previous roles, talk to colleagues, friends and family about your strengths and weaknesses and check out some online psychometric, personality and preference tests.
Example: You realise you are quite good at co-ordinating others and helping them to work as a team.
Work out what you are interested in and what you need to be better at. Read articles, company websites and blogs, industry magazines; speak to friends and colleagues in other companies, departments or roles or even speak to a career coach. Look at job descriptions to see the sort of skills that are in demand at the moment.
Example: You’d like to be a manager. You need some solid experience leading a project with a small team.
Once you’ve decided where you are headed and what you need to learn about you can plan longer term goals and set yourself objectives. Make sure your goals and objectives are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and bound to a Time frame. A career plan is the best place to keep all this information.
Example: You will speak to your manager about opportunities to lead; you will read a management book and articles on management; you will book on to a course.
All of the research and planning in the world is worth nothing if you don’t actually take any action. So make sure you do what you’v planned to do.
Example: You have done a good amount of reading. You discuss a piece of work with your manager that could benefit from a small team. You put yourself forward to lead the team.
How well are you doing compared to your plan? Are you staying on track or does your ‘track’ need adjusting? Are your objectives realistic? Are they relevant? Don’t be afraid to make a change.
Example: You’ve proved yourself on your project. You decide to find a mentor to help you become a manager. You decide that attending a course at this stage would not be beneficial and so remove it from your plan.
Career management by its very nature is not a one-off thing: it is a continuous assessment and evaluation of the current situation, of progress, knowledge and direction. It should not be a box ticking exercise; it should be something you are proud to own and develop.
It is, after all, your life, your journey.