Managing Your Career

by Barbara Buffton

In a nutshell

1. What does it mean – managing your career?

For you as an individual, it means that you need to take control if you want to progress at all. The time has gone (if it ever existed) when you could expect your company to ensure your career progression without you doing much at all. Unless you take up the reins of responsibility, you risk becoming demotivated or worse, and your company risks losing you.

For you as a line manager, it means that you might want to discuss with individual members of staff how you can support them in their career development. If people know that the company cares, they are more likely to stay and be motivated to do good work.

The key steps involved:

  • Knowing where you are now
  • Knowing where you want to go
  • Exploring all options
  • Planning a campaign of action


2. Where are you now?

You have to start with where you are now, otherwise you’re planning in the dark (would you plan a route without putting in your start location?). The following three steps will reveal where changes, if any, need to be made and where you need to keep doing more of what you’re doing if it’s working for you.

  • Step 1: How do you currently feel about your job?
  • Step 2: Determine your strengths and weaknesses (and get other people’s opinions on these too)
  • Step 3: What’s important to you in your work? What are your values in life?


3. What do you want?

As human beings, we seem to be experts in knowing more what we don’t want than what we do want! If you want to manage your career effectively, then obviously one of the key actions to take is to find out where you want to go with it. To do this, you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • What would you like to be doing in the next three to five years?
  • What do you care about?
  • Where do you naturally excel?
  • Do your values correspond to the mission and values of the organisation?


4. What are your options?

Contrary to popular belief, upwards progression is not the only way to get what you want career-wise. There are many other options out there, some of which you might not have considered before.

  • Explore, maybe with your line manager, what is possible and feasible within the parameters of your job and the organisational needs.
  • Get the creative juices flowing and think of all the other ways to get to where you want to go.
  • Can you meet some of your values (what’s important to you) outside work?
  • Could a small change make all the difference?


5. Getting there

Often we are motivated to seek change when things are bad. However, unless we can shake off the bad feelings, we are not at our best in terms of making decisions and being creative about options. Getting to where you want to be (managing your career) is about

  • Starting the process when you’re feeling resourceful
  • Being proactive – imagining you’re your own CEO
  • Checking your goals and writing them down
  • Thinking in advance of obstacles and consequences of any decisions/goals


6. Staying motivated

Setting goals is not enough. How many New Year’s resolutions have you actually kept? Goals need fuel to keep them alive. You need to provide that fuel. Managing your career is not a static affair. It requires action from you.

  • Decide what needs to be done and when.
  • Have a visible written plan of action.
  • Monitor and review it regularly.