Career Management! Process & Tips
Career Management: Process, Role and Benefits
For professionals just starting out, a career is often seen as a destination. But as we grow as professionals, we realize that when we talk about our own careers, it’s more than that: it’s an amazing construction, it is about your ability of moving on your company verticals or laterals while adding complexity to your roles or new competencies. Sometimes it is about turning a passion or an idea into an entrepreneurial initiative. For some, it is about following a vocation while for others it is about a continuous process of professional renewal and transformation.
In case you don’t just want a job to pay the bills but instead you are pursuing a bigger goal of building a career – then you should already know that career management is the process of planning and managing your professional development.
Career doesn’t just happen – it is an accumulation of skills, it is an active process of continuous growth wherein individuals take responsibility for their own professional development and progress, developing career strategies and making decisions designed to help them achieve their career goals.
Career management is important for any professional who wants to be competitive in a globalized market for a series of reasons.
Here are some benefits of managing your own career
- Through a process of introspection, vocational testing and self-assessment – career management helps you set a career goal that matches your training and interest areas. Through this process you will clarify your direction and what the next level means for you as a professional.
- Depending on the goal, you will be able to identify your strengths and areas for development, skills and abilities that are useful to create your own development plan in order to increase your attractiveness as a professional on the labour market. So you can always be ready for greater career opportunities or vertical or lateral promotion.
- Career management helps you clarify your direction and your ability to accelerate the achievement of your goals and therefore gives you the chance to have a strategic approach to your career, to take proactive measures and to be an actor and not a spectator in your own professional life! Your professional success will be an effect of a well-executed career plan with clear career strategies and not just a random occurrence.
- We all operate in an ever-changing world so you can expand your range of skills needed in the business environment, increase your ability to adapt to change by applying a kind of emotional fitness on a daily basis, exposing yourself to actions, situations, projects that push you out of your comfort zone and why not – always preparing that plan B we all need sometimes.
I need to make a distinction between career management and career planning. The aforementioned career management is a broader and ongoing process of managing your professional development. Your career plan is a structured and specific tool that includes your career goal identified for this stage of your professional life and the specific steps you are committed to take, the actions needed to accelerate your proposed goal, with deadlines and resources required.
The career plan is an action plan, an execution plan that will help you focus on what you’ve set out to do in your career and will encourage you to be less distracted from your strategic, career goals.
Whatever career season you are in – career management involves several stages that can vary depending on your individual needs and goals.
Here are some common steps in the career management process:
- Introspection and self-assessment: identify what your values are, what your talents are, what differentiates you as a professional, how powerful your personal brand is. Analyze your success stories, achievements, past experiences and feedback about your performance as a professional or your reputation. Determine what the next level of your career means to you!
- In career management it is important to set tangible career goals! You can break the big goal into several short- and long-term goals. It may be related to a specific role, developing skills needed for the next level or a bigger career transition such as entrepreneurship or professional reconversion.
- Identify your support system: mentors, leadership training in specific areas, map your network of strategic contacts and constantly scan for development, employment or promotion opportunities in your market.
- Attach a necessary skills development plan to your career plan for the next level, one that you believe in and are willing to execute instead of a “nice to have” one that you don’t believe in. What do you know that you don’t know yet? Maybe you need a technical certification or a public speaking course – whatever comes out of the introspection process in your personal development area needs to go into the execution plan. For what you don’t know that you don’t know yet, you could use a mentor or specialized coach to work with for your career acceleration. In my personal experience, it always helps!
- We sometimes delude ourselves that the greatest achievements in our careers are 100% our making, when in fact each of us has a system of contacts that could rely on at some point. Don’t act in isolation, reactivate your contacts network, be active online, keep your strategic contacts informed of your achievements and show your support. When you want to accelerate your career goal achievement – your networking skills remain essential!
- Action planning and career plan execution – don’t get diverted by the operational, the turmoil of a working day. Ask yourself daily: have I contributed anything to my career today? Plan the actions in your career plan in your work agenda because you know what they say, if it’s not in your agenda, it doesn’t happen!
- Progress assessment. In career as in business we must have the ability to progress, sometimes by 1% a day sometimes in bigger leaps – one thing is for sure, stagnation is not to our advantage as professionals.
At this point I would like to clarify something as I am often asked: Is it stagnation that I have been operating for 10-15 years in the same company? My logical question is: how has your role changed in these 15 years? Have you acquired new skills? Have you been exposed to increasingly complex projects? Has your level of empowerment in the company increased by accessing more complex roles? If the answer is yes, then we are not talking about stagnation!
The most common career goals that professionals I work with as a career transitions coach set for themselves are: “I aim to advance into a managerial/middle management/senior management role!” Or “I want to change companies and migrate to a different role in a different company!” Or “I want to become an entrepreneur and transition from corporate to entrepreneurship”.
The most challenging career goals, however, are for those who have already gone through these stages, who have also held complex leadership or technical roles or gone through entrepreneurship – for many of them the next level is about legacy, what they give back to society or communities or the causes they serve!
Regardless of your chosen destination, remember sometimes the journey and the process of becoming are just as important!
The role of the individuals in managing their own career
I am often asked by companies to give motivational speeches at Career Days and I am asked: “Please stress to them that they are responsible for their own career!”. And I do it, every time, because it’s not the HR Manager, direct superior or mentor who is responsible for your own career development but you are.
Only you can be the best architect of your dreams, only you can be the best advocate of your career! Be consistent and ask yourself every day: What have I done today for my career development?
Stages of an individual’s career
I like to use the metaphor “career seasons” rather than career stages. The concept of “career seasons” refers to the distinct stages a person goes through in his or her professional evolution and development over time. These seasons can vary depending on factors such as age, experience, goals and individual context. Here is an overview of career seasons:
- Spring is the initial, junior phase of a person’s career, when they start their professional activity. It’s the time when we acquire our first skills, learn, explore different roles, fields, industries.
- Summer is a growth and development stage characterized by a better understanding of the career field, gaining relevant skills and experience, it is the stage where the professional can advance vertically or horizontally or specialize.
- Autumn is a period of career maturity when a person enjoys success and recognition in his or her field, it may come with leadership positions or advanced specialization, new opportunities for professional portfolio development can be explored.
- Winter is the final stage of a career and is also known as the transition stage to workload reduction or retirement. During this season, professionals become members of various management boards, get involved in mentoring or consulting, and remain active and professionally relevant for much longer than previous generations.
But we shouldn’t look at this demarcation rigidly – there are professionals who accelerate into the summer of their careers with massive success, head dizzyingly into autumn and then reinvent themselves and bring the spring back into their careers. Just as there are professionals who, regardless of being in their 70s, want to remain professionally relevant and continue to be professionally involved as long as their health allows it!
Although some may disagree with me, I think your career season remains your choice!
Don’t forget a few key actions:
- Go on a 1:1 meeting with yourself and ask some questions that require an honest answer like: What does the next level mean for my career?
- Set your career goal, break it down into smaller, tangible goals if it helps!
- Set yourself a career plan, with strategies, specific actions and deadlines.
- Go hand in hand with a development/training plan to accelerate your skills.
- Strengthen your support system: coach, mentor, strategic contacts network!
- Constantly assess your progress!
In conclusion, career management is yours! “Own it!” Ask yourself every day: How have I contributed today to my own career progress?