How to manage your career

Most of us probably spend more time planning our next holiday than managing
our career. But the end of the jobs-for-life culture and along with it,
life-long career progression, means taking control of your career is more
important than ever. Those who take a proactive approach to mapping out a
career path are more likely to find work a satisfactory and rewarding

And you’re never too young to start, or too old to stop managing your
aspirations. Even if you’re at CEO level you never know what might lead to that
desired part-time consultancy job or non-executive directorship you are looking
for when you stand down. So, it’s time to stop drifting, get ambitious, and
take charge of your career.

How do I start?

Don’t say you haven’t got time – it’s too important not to take control of
your career. This need not necessarily entail signing on with a recruitment
agency or seeking advice from a career management consultancy. There are many
straightforward steps you can take that will enhance your future prospects.

Attending conferences and seminars, for instance, provides excellent
networking opportunities. Similarly, keeping abreast of the latest HR thinking
and employment law developments can be easily done through magazines such as Personnel
. Update your skills whenever possible as HR can be quite cyclical in
its demands – at the height of M&A activity, due diligence was regarded as
an indispensable area whereas, now, in terms of economic uncertainty, hiring and
firing ability is more likely to be regarded as a key skill.

Ultimately, it has to be said that heeding advice from a management guru,
however inspirational, is unlikely to rocket you into Personnel Today‘s ’21
to watch’ or ‘Top 40 Power Players’ listings but the more effort you put in the
more you’ll get out and, importantly, the more doors will open up for you.

Shared responsibility

It is fairly safe to assume that your organisation isn’t providing a continuous
career management service as its preoccupation is more likely to be with
vocational training and development that will have a measurable impact on the
bottom line.

However, there is evidence that individuals who receive career management
advice can kindle an interest in monitoring their career throughout their
working lives.

Embedding a career management culture into an organisation will not only
help employees, but your organisation too.

Most employees will move on at some point and paradoxically, offering
employees career advice on the optimum opportunity for development may mean you
risk losing them – but the chances are high that they will one day return to
the company. In the interim, if they have enjoyed a favourable experience, it’s
fairly likely they will act as an ambassador for the company.

Going it alone

If you’re not fortunate enough to experience the sort of help outlined
above, the good news is that we’re all coming round to the idea of managing our
own careers. According to Roffey Park’s The Management Agenda 2003
report, 66 per cent of the 372 managers quizzed believed career development was
their own responsibility while 75 per cent claimed they were fully equipped to
manage their own career.

Where can I get more info?


Voted best executive career site by Yahoo Internet Life magazine, this
sister site of the Wall Street Journal offers a specific section on
managing your career, which covers everything from Climbing the Ladder through to
Surviving a Crisis.

Monster is the online arm of global recruitment agency TMP Worldwide. Its
Career Centre dispenses plenty of useful advice and offers a suite of tools and
services including ’10 key questions to help you discover the work you were
born to do’.

Owned by the Guardian Media Group,’s At Work section presents
a wide selection of services and self-help tools – including reviews of career
fitness checkers.

Related articles

See Personnel Today‘s How to guide to networking at



The Management Agenda 2003 Roffey Park £30


Expert’s view

Jane Robson, director of Courtnay HR, on managing your own career

Q. Has career management changed dramatically in the last decade?

Yes. It has moved from being company organised with a strong company focus
to being individually managed and focused. It is up to you to take
responsibility for managing your career. It has become more important to
develop a broad experience portfolio, rather than a clear line of job title
development, and as such, it essential to think in broader commercial terms
rather than specific specialism terms. Don’t just develop your HR experience in

Q. What’s the most significant thing that you do/you’ve done in terms of
managing your own career?

Developing a range of networks; finding a mentor(s) and ensuring they both
question [my career moves] and that I listen objectively. Be prepared to think
outside of the box and take risks.

Q. What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d give to HR in
terms of managing their own careers?

Don’t be a ‘cobbler’s child’.

Q. Should the way you manage your career be different in a downturn
compared with a boom?

If anything you need to be more flexible in your thinking. Think broader.
Don’t let yourself become so risk or experience adverse that your skills and
experience stagnate. You won’t then be able to take full advantage of the
opportunities that present themselves when the market develops.

Top 3 Tips

– Actually do it

– Think broadly and don’t be afraid to be creative

– Find a mentor

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