Take control of your career

Many jobseekers navigating the 21st-century workplace are using career thinking that is at least a generation out of date. With a lack of advice on offer, people are relying on career models inherited from their parents.

This approach is inherently passive. We trust that someone else will take control for us – our managers, our training department or a headhunter, for example. The passive approach worked well enough when employers were more paternalistic, but this is no longer the case.

Rather than thinking about long-term career planning – which is largely a myth because few professionals’ lives are planned out precisely – consider developing more career awareness.

To become more career-aware, think about what you can do now. Start by asking: “How can I fix the job I’m in?”, and only ask: “How can I find a better job?”

When you know the answers to three basic questions:

  • What kind of work do I find stimulating, even inspiring?
  • What, deep down, are my employer’s biggest problems and aspirations?
  • How can I exploit the overlap, or create one?

Employer challenges are often the missing element. In an age of coaching, we are attuned to personal goals, but often without setting them in the context of organisational success. Research your own organisation as if it were a potential new customer, and invest time in understanding and communicating your strengths. Spend at least one day a quarter cataloguing your skills, successes and any new learning.

One final element in shaping your career is to get what you want without burning out in the process. No-one should impose the ‘right’ work-life balance on you. The best way of looking at what works for you is to look at all the unfulfilled promises you make to yourself and to those who are important to you. The promises that are never fulfilled are usually about time and people. So real career awareness needs to look honestly at what is important to you, and take steps to achieve it.

As more of us are taking control of our careers, the UK is seeing three interesting trends. Over the past 10 to 15 years, workers have become increasingly dissatisfied with the work they do. Organisations are addicted to restructuring and changing with ever-increasing regularity, disrupting career expectations. And our fascination with flexible and unconventional working patterns continues.

For some, this is a matter of portfolio working, while for others it is about strategies for negotiating different kinds of work arrangements. We are increasingly attracted by career breaks, by unconventional career pathways, by ‘downshifting’. We are seeing growth in ‘portfolio’ working – mixing and matching different forms of paid work. Today’s typical portfolio worker mixes interim, freelance, and consultancy appointments, and higher-paid executive roles with voluntary positions.

The future of work is less about long-term commitment to employers, and more about self-designed career pathways.

John Lees is the author of How To Get A Job You’ll Love. His new book, Take Control of Your Career, has just been published.

For more information GO TO www.jobyoulove.co.uk

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