Considering the times we live in-what with a declining economy and job-related woes proliferating across the globe-these days the topic of career management could not be more important. Career management, of course, is not something only to be recurred to in times of crisis; it’s a process (and a skill) which needs to be implemented throughout every stage of our adult lives, both when things are looking up and when they are looking down. At the moment, however, in the midst of the growing unemployment rates that are sweeping the developed and developing worlds, many people are looking with great hope and expectation to the potential benefits which effective career management may have for them.
Considering the widespread sensation of panic or nervousness that has come over the job market, it’s important to come to have a clear vision of precisely what career management is, and how to carry it out effectively and comprehensively. Not only is it important to remember to keep career management in mind when the going’s good, but furthermore it’s important to remember all the pertinent areas of career management-not to overlook crucial aspects, during good times or bad. So, to start, let’s take a look at the three fundamental aspects of career management:
- Long-term goals and strategies. In career management, it is absolutely fundamental that you have a goal in mind for the long haul and that you have a notion of how you intend to get there. There’s really not much to “manage” if these two elements are lacking, after all! As far as setting a long-term goal is concerned, you will need to first of all consider where you stand in the course of your career at the moment, on the one hand, and what the probabilities of your service/product still being marketable in the long-term look like, on the other hand. With regards to the former point, remember that the earlier on in your career the more difficult it will be to think for the long-term and to set goals for the long-term that feel realistic or achievable. With regards to the latter point, remember to try to factor in advances in technology and possible issues of redundancy when determining how marketable your particular service or product will be way down the line. This is a hard bet, and doubtlessly several unknown variables will come into the mix at one point or another; nonetheless, in pursuing a career, it’s a bet that either has to be made, or the person in question needs to seriously consider switching to another line of work.
- Networking. Managing a career is all about having personal and professional contacts-without (a lot of) them, you will not have the sources of support necessary to help you advance professionally. Working adults with a career in the works need to remember that it is wise to work on or elaborate absolutely every potential contact (if only to have the person on a list of names you’ll never end up calling), and furthermore that burning bridges will never help you get anywhere. Many contacts may not yield anything all that significant in terms of your career advancement, yet every once in a while there is that one-and you need to be able to open a dialogue there at the right moment, which is why networking is so important in the first place. Within the realm of networking, there are three areas of interest that need to be pursues separately yet with equal energy: the place where you currently work (both among colleagues and superiors); the professional associations which represent your activity; and the major recruiters and/or companies where you hope to perhaps work in the future. Lavish these three areas with loads of networking, and you will do your career an enormous solid.
- Résumé polishing and updating. How marketable can you possibly be when your résumé is representative of your professional standing from over a year ago?! Maintaining an updated résumé on at least a yearly basis shows people (recruiters in particular) that you take the process of career management seriously and that you’re not just counting on luck and/or a good first impression. Remember that when you reach crucial turns in the road during your professional career, you may have to reinterpret the importance of previous work experiences and present them in a new light to justify your current direction. In this sense, remember to update your personal statement when appropriate to reflect any developments in terms of goals and principal strengths. Keep in mind that an updated résumé is a brilliant tool no matter what career path you are pursuing, as it enables you to seize opportunities as they arise without the need to stall (in order to bring your image up to speed). If you feel that your résumé is a little stale, you should think about enlisting the help of a career coach as this is just one of the specialist services that they offer.
These three branches or areas within career management combine-when properly fulfilled-to drastically improve the readiness of a working professional to take on bold new opportunities and to make the kinds of leaps forward that will afford them the stability they are looking for.
Finally, it is important for professionals to put together a contingency plan in case their original plan doesn’t work out just the way they wanted to: after all, successful career management isn’t so much about accomplishing exactly what you set out for yourself, but rather it’s about making the best of the opportunities which present themselves and overcoming the setbacks that inevitably arise. As mentioned at the beginning, there are unknown variables that may surface and alter the marketability of a given product or service in the mid- or long-term. In such cases, working professionals need to know how to harness their experience, skills and network and apply them to a new path (whether a slight change in direction within the same field or a complete jumping of ships has taken place).