Biiiiig question. On the one hand, I’d like to thank the kind reader who submitted this question. On the other, I’d like to strangle him till his eyes pop … [I will also be very interested to see what your thoughts on this are, so please chip in with your $0.02 worth in the comments. This is a huge topic and the biggest differentiator I have seen across all levels of the organisation chart is shared knowledge. All thoughts welcomed]
Ben Ball from the University of Sussex wrote a defining piece on the topic in Career Development International about ten years ago in which he identified four distinct, but related, strands for the 21st Century:
  1. Making career choices and decisions – and an increasingly insecure working world requires that individuals may now have to “revisit this process” with greater frequency than was previously needed.
  2. Managing one’s progression within an organisation.
  3. Coping with boundaryless careers” – freelancers, artists and designers.
  4. Controlling your own personal development – to maintain and enhance your employability.
I saw this kind of thinking in action in the late 1980s and early 90s while working for the American corporates. When I described the kind of ongoing effort that I saw senior players making in that arena, people back in Ireland started looking at me like I had a second head growing out of my shoulders.

But it just makes sense …

Unless you have a long-forgotten great Aunt who is going to bequeath you a logging company, your career is likely to be your primary (in many cases your sole) source of income. And given that your chances of winning the lottery are about the same as your chances of being hit by a lump of the international space station, it makes sense to cherish, and nourish and nurture that revenue stream.

In the good old, work-40-years-for-the-same-company-and-collect-your-gold-watch, days this wasn’t an enormous problem. Yes, you might have to cope with the frustration of your career topping out somewhere along the way, but at least your revenue stream was secure – come in, do your 40 hours, collect your fair day’s pay. My father arrived home at 6.20 pm every evening. You could literally set your clock by him. It might not have been all that thrilling, but it was safe.

Not any more.

Anyone who reads about what is going on in the working world will be familiar with the BFSSes (Big Fat Scary Statistics) that are continually floating around in this space. If you are leaving formal education right now, you can expect to have to pursue 3-4 totally different career paths before you retire. Have to. If you are leaving formal education right now, you can expect to have to make 7-8 enforced job moves in the next 30 years. Have to.

This needs managing – happiness, success and fulfillment are not likely to happen for you by chemical chance. Your working life will have to be managed, and no-one cares enough to do that for you except you. And that means work:

  • These are not innate talents for anyone – you have to learn how.
  • Nor is career management a frivolous luxury – it has become a necessity.
  • Nor is it a one-off investment of time, effort or money. You will need to inculcate the skills and tactics of managing your working life into your daily routine – if you grudgingly put them on like a suit of clothes every day, they won’t fit right and they won’t work right.

You brush your teeth every day so they don’t look, feel and smell unattractive and so that they don’t fall out of your head. Do you think that your career could benefit from a more-than-occasional polish and flossing?

Next – the early steps.

Related Posts
What is career management? (Part 2)
Career change – size of market
Careering along