You’re a busy professional. Maybe you’re already in a C-level position, or perhaps you’re well on your way there. You live and breathe management, it’s your job. Your day-to-day concerns include ensuring your company is successful and your teams are motivated and inspired. While organizational management and developing others is key to your success, chances are there is more you could be doing to manage your career.
You may think, but I’m already succeeding, what more do I need? While that’s a common thought among busy, successful professionals, unfortunately it’s shortsighted. You know very well that good management requires long-term strategic planning and ongoing investment to ensure success, not only for today, but also well into the future. This philosophy is no different when it comes to managing your career.
As an executive career coach, I know “career management” is a phrase used a lot in the business realm, but truly understood by few. I’d like to define career management so you can ensure you are doing it properly and you can reap the long-term rewards of career management done right. So, what is it?
Put simply, career management is taking responsibility for and owning your career track. The process involves ongoing planning, monitoring and making course corrections based on your personal goals and ambitions.
A common misperception is that career management is simply job search. That is not the case, although job search may be part of your career management at different points in your life. Career management is essential for both active job seekers and those happily employed, and it changes throughout one’s career based on both career goals and personal priorities. As examples, your career management may shift when you are planning to start a family, focusing on a promotion or advancing to the next career level, securing a first-time seat on a board of directors, or leaving the corporate realm to start your own business.
The point is career management changes over time and it is something you can actively work on. In the past, when employee tenure tended to be much longer within a single organization, one’s career path and career management largely resided with their employer. However, that is not the case today and the responsibility of career management has shifted to the individual. Below, I offer three strategies you can employ now to ensure you are successfully managing your career for the long haul, not just for today.
1. Develop an internal and external strategy. Your career management planning should include both an internal focus within your current organization, as well as a distinct strategy for managing your career outside of work. Within your organization, a goal should be to acquire as much cross-functional experience as possible. Today’s most sought-after executive candidates are not siloed in their expertise and tend to have both functional knowledge in a specific area, as well as broad exposure across functions. For example, if you are a VP of Marketing, collaborating closely with Technology and Finance—acquiring as much knowledge in those functional areas as possible— will only serve to your advantage, for either promotion or when you seek new opportunities externally.
For your focus outside of work, networking is key. Identify those who either have the type of job you want, or who occupy positions in specific industries or companies that you would like to work in at some point in the future. Find out what you have in common, from professional organizations to industry events, and use those commonalities to develop relationships.
2. Understand your values. One thing I always focus on with my clients is helping them understand what their values are at any given point in their careers. Like career management, your values change over time, but understanding what they are may not be immediately apparent. One simple exercise I often suggest to clients is to look at their current resume or CV, and with a pen, scratch out all the skills and responsibilities that maybe they are brilliant at, but no longer excite or satisfy them. What’s left is what they value most in their careers.
The same applies to personal values outside of work. List all the things that you have hoped to achieve in your life and cross out those that just don’t matter as much anymore. What is left is what you truly value. Understanding the intersection of your skills and personal values will better allow you to target new opportunities or evaluate them when they arise.
3. Build your authentic brand. Once you understand the skills you want to utilize and what your values are, you can start to create your authentic brand. The most sought after executive candidates have a unique point of view that extends well beyond just their experience and skillset—it is the combination of what they excel at and what they value that creates their personality and unique career brand. Make sure people know what you can do, but also what you value.
Your authentic brand should be reflected across a portfolio of activities and materials, from the speaking engagements you accept and thought leadership you publish, to the relationships you build and your personal career documents, including your resume/CV, executive bio and LinkedIn profile.
With career management defined and some simple strategies you can employ now for doing it right, you are empowered to take your own career management to the next level. IA good career coach can also help you further explore the intersection of your skills and values, how to develop a successful career plan and how to effectively build your brand.