It used to be that employment with a company was a life-long relationship, with promotions coming at steady intervals. Time-in-job guaranteed progress, as is the case in government. Not any more. The new employment contact assures ‘marketability’ both within and outside the organisation and career development opportunities that require lateral moves to lead to upward mobility.
There appear two distinct schools of thought at work among the workforce: one that sits back and expects the organisation to take care of its development needs. This lot will complain and moan about the “lack of promotions” even though they have put in so many years in the job. The other lot takes its progress firmly in its own hands.
Some harsh realities are at work here: flatter organisations mean no traditional hierarchy to climb and excessive focus on costs means you cannot have non-performing assets on the books — equipment or people. What are you, a career-minded individual, to do? Fortunately there are several things that can be done to make progress — and they all start with you.
First of all, you have to recognise that the responsibility for your development rests with you and no one else. Period. Then you need to have a plan.
To start with, you must know the direction you want your career to progress in; what kind of job do you see yourself doing in the next three to five years? Where do you see yourself at the time of your retirement? If you can’t think of a particular title or position, what activities do you see yourself indulging in and what privileges do you see yourself enjoying? Is there a person you would like to emulate or model your career on? There is no harm in making changes as you go along — in fact, course corrections are required. But make sure you always have a direction and that you create the momentum to get you there.
Look for a mentor, preferably one within the organisation you are currently with. Seek his or her opinion on your goals and ambitions. Identify the attributes for performing successfully at your current level and also at the next level. Remember, technical skills are a given at most levels of management; what organisations look for are personal attributes that determine how you will perform (based on your past performance). Organisations would rather ‘hire for attitude and train for skill’ because your attitude will make all the difference between mediocrity and success. A mentor can help you identify areas you need to work on and polish those that you already have that can benefit you.
Organisations are looking for ‘leaders’ as opposed to traditional, old-style ‘managers’. A good leader is, almost without exception, a good communicator. Take any successful business giant — whether that person has a technical background or is a pure ‘management’ type — you will be struck by their awesome communications abilities. Look for opportunities where you can learn to express yourself (there will be plenty). Business executives list public speaking as one of their biggest fears. This is your chance to excel and gain recognition. Leaders are also adept at ‘networking’. Make reading an integral part of your self-development programme. Read all you can about your company, its products and competitors, the discipline you are in and other management developments. There are numerous books and magazines available to those interested and few acceptable excuses for not being abreast of things.
Career development is now synonymous with self-development and self-development is all about self-leadership. Your future is in your hands.