Managing your career might not be something that’s been on your radar.
In fact, up until now, you may have given little thought to effective career planning and career exploration.
If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Career management is about assessing your current status and taking calculated career moves going forward. This means, answering some tough questions to help you manage your goals, decisions, and align your focus.
For example, start by answering questions like these…
- What’s the best way to manage my career?
- What areas of career development should I focus?
- What career decisions are best for me?
- What’s the best approach for handling a (un)planned career transition?
MANAGING YOUR CAREER
The first step to managing your career is by assessing where you are now.
Are you happy in your current job/career?
Sure, we all have aspects of our career paths that we dislike.
Yet, rate your current career field on a scale of 1 to 10.
Several factors can go into your decision.
- Are you paid well?
- Do you like the industry of your employer?
- What’s the stress level in your chosen career? High? Low?
- Is there room for advancement?
- Do you feel challenged?
- Could a job change improve your situation?
A score of 1-5 is not so good.
A score lower than 6 should cause you to reassess your latest career decisions and explore different skills that match your interests.
A score of 7-10 reflects that you know yourself well and that you’re likely in your chosen career.
5 WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR CAREER SUCCESSFULLY
First, once you’ve “scored your job/career,” it’s time to set clear and concise career goals.
Here’s a link to several career goal setting worksheets to help.
Essentially, setting professional goals is simply identifying what you want and how you’ll get it.
You could focus your energy on short-term goals, which could cover your efforts over the next few weeks to months.
Long-term goals, on the other hand, are the goals you’ll set that will take longer because you need to secure more OTJ training or education.
These goals take 12 months or longer to accomplish.
Take the time right now to write down your top 5 goals.
For example, a project manager might have goals that look like this:
- Finish Agile training in the next 90 days
- Volunteer and serve on non-profit board for the next 12 months
- Enroll at Wright State University (WSU) and sign up for 2 classes before the deadline in 10 weeks
- Make a list of answers to “How have I improved my job/employer in the last 6 months?”
- Optimize my resume with achievements and PM skills; meet with boss to discuss additional responsibilities and possible pay raise
Second, switch your mindset to “information-gathering mode.”
Ask questions, and discuss career options and success strategies with your friends and colleagues.
Speak only to professionals who you respect and who can offer wisdom. You’re going to ask some serious questions, so brace yourself as the answers you receive might sting a little.
Your goal is to ask questions like these:
- What do you recommend to help me improve my current performance?
- What do you believe are my weaknesses?
- In your opinion, where am I wasting time, energy?
- What do you advise on how to improve my career?
- How do you believe people perceive me? Honest? Sarcastic? Abrasive? Personable?
The truth is that emotionally intelligent people accept criticism because they recognize it as a tool that shifts us to a learning mindset.
People make big strides in personal and professional development after they receive negative feedback.
The goal is to know that criticism can be lined with good intentions.
Third, recognize when you’re a wallflower.
Too many job seekers do what’s outlined in their job descriptions, and nothing more.
Turn yourself into a “yes” man (or woman).
Instead of defaulting to your old mindset of “that’s not my job,” volunteer for new projects and responsibilities and make them perfect opportunities to broaden your skills.
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
Have you ever asked yourself, “how can I make myself invincible at work?”
Making yourself invincible to your employer can be done by…
…getting outside your comfort zone
…becoming an expert inside (and outside) your field
…broadening your network and inner circle
…seeing what your employer’s local to global industry is doing
Fourth, recognize what’s next for you – and know your “why”?
Don’t leave your next career move to chance.
Right now, write a paragraph that answers what’s next for your career.
- Will your next job be management?
- Will your next job be a stepping stone?
- Are you seeking a career change? If yes, to what?
- Will you take on new responsibilities? If yes, what are those?
- What’s your target salary for that next job?
You can extend your answers by giving your “why.”
- My next role will be in medical staff management – ideally @Kettering Health Management – because I enjoy the scheduling and professional coaching of medical staff.
- I’m no longer happy in retail management because of the long hours and low pay. Therefore, my goal is to take an 18-month sabbatical from my employer to pursue a degree in Marketing Management from the University of Dayton.
To help identify your why, read Ken Costa’s book titled, “Know Your Why: Finding & Fulfilling Your Calling in Life.” The author outlines how to best live your life with purpose.
When it comes to “knowing your why,” start by identifying what excites you and makes you come alive.
If you’re passionate about self-sufficiency, energy conservation, organic living, or whatever, use what excites you to help discover what drives you; what gets you up in the morning; what you would do even if there were no paycheck involved.
You’ve heard this advice before, but you probably haven’t heeded it.
Why is that?
Not knowing (or paying attention to) these valuable bits about yourself is a lot like trying to shove a square peg in a round hole every day you go to work. If you’ve wondered why you hate your job and stress excessively at work, this might be the answer.
Let me reassure you, however, that EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET HAS FLAWS AND WEAKNESSES.
The challenge is when we don’t recognize our strengths and balance those against our weaknesses to avoid dings and dents to our careers.
HOW TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER THROUGH CONTINUED EDUCATION
If you’re someone who thinks that just because you finished a bachelor’s degree that school is a thing of the past, you’d be wrong.
Managing your career optimally is done in part by learning and growing your brain. Have you ever heard Warren Buffet quoted as saying, “the more you learn, the more you earn”?
You can let your career drive itself, or you can take charge of it.
When going back to college isn’t on your radar, you’re in luck.
The internet is packed full of continuing education programs. Some are free. Some are not.
Let’s start with free, on-demand content:
- YouTube – you might be surprised by this option; however, YouTube can almost give you a PhD equivalent degree in a plethora of topics. From learning about 18th and 19th-century homesteads from Ruth Goodman to website marketing from the team over at DigitalMarketer.com, you no longer have an excuse for not continuing your education.
For a paid (but cheap!) option to professional development, look no further than…
- LinkedIn Learning – Formerly known as Lynda, LI Learning gives paid members access to their learning platform. Some of the most popular courses are on project management, marketing, accounting, and coding/scripting.
Also good – once you complete a LinkedIn Learning course, you can add it to your LI profile.
THE CAREER DECISIONS THAT SHOULD GET YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION
When it comes to managing your career, use Scrum.
Never heard of it?
You may not have, but I guarantee you will.
Scrum was once reserved for software development but is now finding it’s way into all areas of project management regardless of industry.
For example, marketing departments are using Scrum to speed and streamline content development, data analysis, online media marketing, and product development/marketing.
So, how does Scrum help with career management?
Scrum asks 3 questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any impediments in your way?
When applied to the management of your career, these questions transform to this:
- What did you do yesterday to boost the success of your career?
- What will you do today to help achieve your career goals?
- Are there any impediments in your way?
Daily you visit these questions and answer them.
Make yourself accountable by connecting with a career coach who will “hold your feet to the fire” when you get lazy and unfocused.
TRANSITION IS ABOUT MANAGING CAREER CHANGE
Maybe you’ve realized the next round of layoffs will affect your job. Or, you may have been terminated because of office politics that have nothing to do with your management capabilities.
Or, perhaps, your decision to career transition is one you’re making voluntarily.
Whatever the reason for the evolution of your career path, the way you approach this change has a real impact on how you manage your success.
Before you leave your current employment…
…strategize about how to transition gracefully and effectively with minimal impact on your professional future.
Plan for The Short Term
If the transition is involuntary, develop a plan to minimize any work gap in your resume.
You might do this by filling in the time during your job search with volunteer or contract work – anything that keeps your management skills fresh and shows that others value your contributions.
Continuing to work during a transition period makes it clear that you aren’t lazing about…even if you were laid off.
Get Serious About Networking
This doesn’t just apply to seeking out new people to network with. You should also be looking to strengthen and sustain the bonds you have developed with peers at your current workplace.
Remember that few individuals stay in one job for too long these days. Those friends will eventually move on to (hopefully) bigger and better things.
You want them to remember you when they are in a position to influence a hiring decision.
Identify the Reasons You Are In Transition
Remember that one of the big questions recruiters ask is always, “Why did you leave your last job?”
There is rarely just one answer to this query – but there is a right answer if you take care to think it through.
For example, the pay at your last job may have been poor, the opportunities for advancement nonexistent, and your authority consistently undermined.
However, this doesn’t mean those are the only reasons you left.
Focus on what you are moving toward instead of what you are moving away from.
Leave a Legacy
It’s never too late to make a positive last impression.
The way you leave your current job speaks volumes about how well you will fulfill your new duties.
In today’s highly connected world this is especially critical since your reputation will be following you closely. Besides preparing for your new job, spend some extra time making sure the department you are leaving is in good shape.
Put together a “guidebook” for your successor with some of the tips you have learned over the years.
This is the kind of classy gesture that helps ensure you will leave with a good letter of recommendation.
Manage Your Online Reputation
Nine out of 10 hiring managers are looking at your online profiles before making a hiring decision, according to Jobvite’s annual Social Recruiting Survey (2014).
More than half of those surveyed said they’ve reconsidered hiring a candidate based on what they found online.
As a job seeker, it’s important to consider what a prospective employer will learn about you online.
Online profiles aren’t just used to “rule out” candidates — your online presence can also improve your chances of getting the job, by providing examples of your work ethic, spotlighting mutual connections, and identifying cultural fit.
What a company finds about you online should reassure them about your qualifications and suitability as a prospective employee … not raise red flags.
But it’s the negative information that can hurt. Poor spelling/grammar or profanity on your social media posts — or sharing information about your political affiliation — can impact your chances of being hired.
Improve Your Team Management Skills
If you’re managing a management career, you may find yourself mystified and frustrated by today’s workers.
The latest generation to move into the workplace – dubbed “Generation Y” and referring to those born after 1980 – seems a different breed altogether.
Raised by parents who grew up in the 1960s and early 70s, Generation Y grew up questioning everything and everyone – their parents, their teachers, and their bosses.
They have witnessed the “boom and bust” cycles of the 1990s and early 2000s, and have a clear memory of Enron and the recent implosion on Wall Street, as well as the sell-out of American workers as manufacturing moved to China.
As a result, the term “employee loyalty” is not part of their vocabulary, and their career decisions reflect that.
Not surprisingly, they want more flexibility in their work-life and focus on career pathways that support that.
Today’s intergenerational workplace will require many adjustments and patience from professionals like you.