I’m curious – in which of these three areas do you belong when it comes to career management?
- I Hang Out: For people who ‘hang out’ in their careers, there can be days where things click or opportunities happen, but most of their professional life is about reacting to whatever happens daily or whatever someone else suggests.
- I Contribute: A contributor is very serious about making an impact – they do well enough, yet they’re so busy doing the work, they don’t have time to contemplate the strategies and mindset that will propel them to more satisfying work or the income progression they deserve.
- I Manage My Career: Not only skilled at contributing, a person who manages their career typically has a strong sense of who they are and what they can offer which allows them to capitalize on opportunities – to network, to increase their skills, and to ensure others know about the value they offer.
Most of my professional life I fell into the Contributor group. Often I just felt too busy with my professional and personal life to actively manage more than my job performance… and frequently I wasn’t certain where I wanted to head. And regrettably, I didn’t have a lot of role models or mentors in how to manage my career in a way that felt authentic and consistent with my values. Therefore, I did the work – seriously and proficiently – but I didn’t start managing my career till fairly late in the game.
Through my years providing coaching and leadership development, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Contributors who want to find a path to being a Career Manager that feels both comfortable and effective. I have found three things are present for those who are satisfied and successful in managing their careers:
- Skill Fit – A skill fit sets the foundation for success in that a person starts by having what it takes to do the work; meaning individual skills and experience match what their organization requires in order to deliver its goals. If you don’t have the skills, you won’t have long-term success.
- Culture Match – In those who are happiest, there is also a style match culturally – how a person approaches their work fits well with the organizational values and preferences for getting work accomplished. A great deal of dissatisfaction with one’s job can occur when there isn’t a good cultural match.
- Brand Clarity – It’s this third element of brand clarity that has become clearer and clearer to me as a necessity for satisfaction and success… and for driving career management. What I have found in working with business leaders and professionals is when an individual is clear about their personal brand identity (what they do, how they do it, and the value it provides) and how it connects to their work, that person will start to effectively manage their career because they can see the alignment between who they are and how they can contribute. This perspective also allows them to know where to contribute – including whether to stay at a company or go elsewhere to find their best fit.
In the past, organizations didn’t necessarily care if you were clear about who you were and felt comfortable expressing it. As long as they provided a decent wage and environment, companies felt they’d fulfilled their piece of the pie.
Yet now younger workers change companies frequently and organizations are seeking ways to retain top talent, they are starting to recognize creating an environment that encourages self-knowledge and authentic expression is to their benefit. According to a report by Daniel Cable, Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats published in Administrative Science Quarterly, “Cornell University research shows that to maximize employee satisfaction, new employee socialization should focus on personal, not corporate, identity. … When your employees can be their ‘authentic best selves’ in the workplace, productivity and retention increase.”
Personal Branding is not just for the super-powered, it’s essential for each of us in navigating our professional journey. And, it’s also smart business that can and should be part of leadership development in companies.
If you’re an individual who is ready to gain clarity about your professional life, I can work with you one-on-one and set you on the path to successful career management. Or if you’re a business leader seeking leadership development for your team, we can talk about programs to illuminate personal brands, improve employee skill sets, and support a high-functioning culture. Just email me and let’s set up a time to talk.