Manage Yourself for the Career You Want

“Your past cannot be changed, but you can change tomorrow by your actions today.”
– David McNally

The career you want doesn’t drop in your lap prefabricated the way it used to be. To have the career you want, you have to design and initiate your own path. In the past, on-the-job training was a popular means of creating the perfect employee. Businesses had the time and resources to teach workers what they needed to know, in order to develop a career with their company. Today, as companies are downsizing and restructuring to remain competitive, career-minded individuals must be that much better than others vying for the same position; and, they must be prepared to hit the ground running. You have to go after the job you want.

Career Tips

While career guidance is beneficial, the ultimate decisions are up to you. A career is more than simply a job. It’s not flipping burgers at the local fast food restaurant, until something better comes along. A career is a lifelong pursuit of professional success. It helps define who you are, and where your values lie. It gives your life purpose and meaning. It also happens to provide a paycheck.

If you really want a career, and not just a job, here are some suggestions to help facilitate your success:

* Know your personal and professional goals
* Keep a portfolio of your best work
* Keep track of your successes
* Commit to lifelong learning
* Invest time and money in developing your career
* Establish an advisory board
* Find a mentor
* Network

You can’t sit back and wait for your career to tack off. If you want to be a leader in your chosen occupation, you need to make your success happen.

Career Management

An expert in career guidance will provide suggestions based upon experience. He/she may even develop a personalized list of objectives you need, to put your career on the fast track. But, it’s you that will do the hard work and provide the initiative necessary for a successful outcome.

For example, only you know your personal and professional goals. You must recognize your own potential, adapt to changes when necessary, and do what it takes to continually build your career. Today, a college degree is simply not enough. Everyone has to have an education, in order to get a meaningful job. You need to recognize the education necessary to get your foot in the proverbial door. Then, you need to go above and beyond the competition. You will always have to consider how best to invest your time and money, in order to advance your career.

You will also need to keep track of the advancements and changes in your career field. Networking can keep you in the “know” and make sure that others know about you. Developing an advisory board can boost your credibility and convey that you are dedicated to advancing in your career, even if it means accepting change or going back to school. You are your own best tool for success.

In short, career management is not a job you can outsource. You need to manage yourself for the career you want.

Copyright, Cecile Peterkin. All rights reserved.

Seven Truths of Career Success

1. The most qualified candidate does not necessarily get the job offer

Many times, candidates with lesser qualifications get job offers simply because they’ve prepared and presented themselves in a more compelling way. They “package” themselves better, with an outstanding portfolio of career documents and oral presentation skills. The winning candidate is the one who knows how to tie his or her achievements, strengths and assets directly to the employer’s needs, problems and challenges.

In a difficult employment landscape, strong qualifications and accomplishments are necessary, but not sufficient, to find a job you love and earn what you deserve. Don’t be fooled into believing that the work world is a meritocracy – it’s not. In the end, it’s the best self-marketer who gets the job.

2. The best time to work on your career is when your job is secure

Even if you’re very happily employed today, you never know what may happen tomorrow! To avoid a career crisis, you should incorporate the concept of “Perpetual Career Management” into your professional life. This means consistently pursuing activities that you THOUGHT were only for job seekers.

Vital tasks like keeping your success stories up to date, practicing interviewing and negotiation skills, or networking regularly with professionals in your industry, should be incorporated into your routine whether the economy is good or bad – and whether you feel you need to or not.

Instead of focusing only on doing your job, you should focus on managing your career – at all times, regardless of how the economy or job market is doing!

3. Graduating from school is the beginning of your education, not the end

In good economic times or bad, you should always look for ways to advance your industry knowledge and professional qualifications. Attending seminars, reading trade journals, pursuing certifications, etc. – these activities must be a part of your ongoing professional development process. It’s imperative that every professional remain current in his or her field. No company wants to hire a candidate whose intellectual capital is stale. NOT upgrading your knowledge and skills on a continual basis is a risk you can’t afford to take.

You should continually build your credentials, which will make you more attractive and marketable as a candidate – both inside your company and in “the outside world.”

Plus, in a down economy, the greatest assets you have to sell are your knowledge and intellectual resources. When business gets tough, the demand for people who can think strategically and deliver tangible results goes UP, not down!

4. An employer’s first offer is NEVER their best offer

When it comes to compensation, employers expect that you’ve done salary research, and they anticipate having dynamic negotiations with you. In fact, they’ll often be disappointed and question your candidacy if you DON’T negotiate. You might be tempted to think ANY job offer is great in a tough economy or that this is the WORST time to negotiate – but you’d be wrong.

Employers usually start with a low salary offer merely as a “trial balloon,” to see how you’ll react – and there’s almost always room to improve on the initial compensation offer, even in a tight job market. If you don’t negotiate further, I guarantee that you’ll be leaving money – and possibly a whole lot more – on the table.

5. Always research and be “plugged in” to the competition

Research and be aware of the competition – whether it be information about other companies or other professionals in your industry. Always know who they are and what they’re doing. Endeavor to “know the competition better than they know themselves.” This will greatly enhance your competitiveness when jobs are hard to come by, and it will allow you to jump on opportunities that others might not yet be aware of!

So “research your way to success.” Read industry publications, your daily newspaper’s business section, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and so on. Pay attention to other local, regional, and national sources of “business intelligence,” such as web sites, newsletters, blogs, and radio or TV shows.

Connect with people, companies, and groups that you read about. The more you know about the competition, the easier it will be to land the right position in a challenging job market.

6. Networking is not as important as you think it is

It’s far more important! Put time aside every week for active networking to maintain established relationships and develop new ones – both inside and outside the company where you work.

You should always be positioned to leverage your professional and personal contacts when the need arises. So, adopt the discipline of blocking-out time on your calendar specifically for networking activities – every week, every month, and every year, for the duration of your career!

It’s important to keep networking in both good economic times and bad – and to continually expand your contact database. This vital resource becomes the “backbone” of every future job search, as well as your overall career development process.

7. If YOU’RE not managing your career, nobody is!

When I speak to audiences about career management strategies, I often start by asking, “Who is responsible for managing your career?” Is it Human Resources, your manager, a recruiter, your Career Coach, or none of these?

In the past, when the job market was much healthier, perhaps any combination of these would have been the correct answer. But in today’s economy, the answer is clearly “none of these.”

It doesn’t matter what your Human Resources department says about “succession planning” or “leadership development.” It doesn’t matter that you have great relationships with recruiting firms. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with the world’s best Career Coach. It doesn’t even matter if your boss loves everything you’re doing, has big plans for you, and has nothing but praise for you at every performance review.

The bottom line is that YOU, and only you, hold the keys to your career and professional future. Although there is no longer such a thing as “job security,” if you take 100% responsibility for managing your own career, you can still develop and maintain own brand of “employment security.”