'I's of Successful Career Management

Posted On : Jan 09, 2017

About the Article: For most professionals, Mid-Career is generally the time when there is clarity as to how our career has been shaping up and where and how we want to take it further… For those of us who are in that part of the continuum from Early Career up to the Early Mid-Career, there are times our minds linger on the ‘Road Taken’ and ‘The Road Not Taken’ in our respective career journey till then … These are times when we would like to take stock and review decisions and bring structure and perspective into career aspirations. Sharing excerpts from my musings originally published in my website for professionals in the 'taking stock' mode.


Career building is a  process of continuously discovering oneself, aligning and re-aligning their mix of capability, attitude, passion, potential and opportunity. It is a journey and not a destination. It is iterative and happens over a period of time. It gets strengthened with passion for and excellence in whatever you do. According to me, the most important aspect of the career building process itself is the ‘I’ element - the Individual. Career Building becomes all about what the Individual does with what happens to or with him in his work life. It therefore becomes the individual’s responsibility to keep track of the evolution of his or her career and make plans and execute actions accordingly. The organisation that one works for is only a support structure in building one’s career. 


Career Planning: Like in most management processes, there is definitely a planning element involved in career building. If you happen to observe successful people around you and take a slightly closer look at their careers, you might see two ways (and sometimes, a combination of both) in which their careers would have got built

  • Relative and Progressive – where career growth is incremental and happens over a period to achieve a goal. It is a calculated approach to career building.
  • Unrelated and Passion Driven – where people step out of comfort zones to build something from scratch - where, growth and achievement timelines are based purely on skill and aspirations driven.

In both cases, success is possible and only possible by building the right level of aspirations, skills, competencies and attitude required to attain the milestones set for oneself, on ongoing basis.

However, it is important to understand that the plan should be flexible to embrace dynamics of the reality and external factors beyond one’s control. It is also critical to acknowledge that what works for one in a particular way, might not necessarily work for the other in the same way. It is also crucial to recognize that a few hits and misses here and there are perfectly acceptable.


With all the above as the backdrop, a few simple steps, I believe in and share for Career Management are as below :


Introspect and Identify Self : List and rate what really motivates you in a typical job environment? Understand what you like to do and form a mental picture of how you would like to see yourself 5, 10, 15 years from now depending on which career stage you are currently in. To this, add elements of your talent, skills, aspirations - both personal and professional as an overall input since Career building happens over a period and your personal goals and milestones do have an influence on your career goals and vice-versa.


Inclination and Information gathering : Once you feel inclined towards a particular direction and you envisage yourself in a certain role, think about different ways in which you can make it happen. Do some research and gather information about various sources and opportunities which could help make a choice. Select few routes to getting to the end state that you set for yourself. As mentioned, make the plan directional and not rigid. 


Improvisation Planning : Identify gaps between current state and goal set for the immediate period (quarter). List down a set of training, interventions etc. which would help you to improve and progress towards the goals - make them as specific and actionable as possible. Reach out to your Manager in the organisation and share your career plan. Understand the learning opportunities and other job related opportunities available for you within the organisation. Have a discussion of how your current organisation could help you progress towards your career goals. Identify a mentor, inside or outside the organisation, who is mature and senior enough to evaluate your direction towards your goal and would care enough to tell you when you need to switch track or backtrack for you to really reach where you set out to.


Implementation : Implementation refers to putting plans to actions in a careful manner without any rush. Create a personal support system that takes care of your day to day needs while you are working on short term goals. For example, a plan to manage your school going kid, after school hours, if you are planning to take evening classes to enhance a specific skill.


Inspection, Intervention & Iteration : As the word suggests, plan – do – check – act – review ...the cycle goes on. It is iterative. It is important to review the actions in line with your goals. It is important to factor elements of reality in a periodic manner to make sure you stay focused on the goal. 


Inking : Make a note of each step above , document it well. Link your choices to your current stage of life along with personal milestones to be achieved at each level. List down yearly goals of both the above and break them into quarterly actions with clear milestones. Ink down the current goals vis-a-vis the achievements – Documentation is a powerful tool that helps you see beyond the obvious and helps you take the right decision at the right time. To this, add elements of your talent, skills, aspirations - both personal and professional - as an overall input since career building happens over a period and your personal goals and milestones do have an influence on your career goals and vice-versa. 


The above, when taken up at some stage of the career, not only help one assess the Career Cost Benefit Analysis till then but also in bringing structure and clarity  to the way forward. It could sometimes come up as a surprise that the aspirations or interest zones might change from the ‘Road Taken’ to ‘The Road Not Taken’. 


A successful Career is a state of mind and is subjective.


I have had this conversation with many successful people and what I could understand is that a successful career is a state of mind. Simply put, a successful career is the one that gives utmost content and sense of fulfillment to the individual. The yardsticks for measure of success varies from person to person and usually a mix of quantifiable and non-quantifiable parameters. That’s what makes careers interesting and worthwhile.

In the words of Zig Ziglar, American Author, Salesman, and Motivational Speaker, the quote goes as, "You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”. So folks, go ahead, develop your ‘I’s for a Successful Career Management and make your Career a successful and satisfying one.


About the Author: Venugopal (Venu) is the Founder and CEO of Smart Talent Consulting Services Pvt Ltd. He is an Intrapreneur turned Entrepreneur with passion for Consulting. He can be reached at kb.smarttalent@gmail.com


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