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Kamis, 02 September 2010

Career Evolution Or Career Intelligent Design?

The argument between evolution and intelligent design came to mind recently when considering career development in this harsh economic climate. The more traditional view of career development is the intelligent design approach - set career goals and developing a plan to achieve them step by step. In a work environment as volatile as this one, however, it is hard to see how the best laid career plans can be followed to a successful conclusion without numerous hiccups along the way!

The evolutionary approach to career development might be more effective given the current state of the job market. In Darwinian terms this is "the survival of the fittest" within the organization. In the evolutionary approach you do not plan too far ahead (who knows what will happen by next year!), but rather respond effectively to new situations as they arise. To paraphrase the Marine Corps mantra - success comes when you "improvise, adapt, and overcome".

Here are some tips from the National Career Development Association to help your quest for job survival if not an intelligently designed career development plan:

1. Stop complaining about how much things have changed. Office change is old news and throwing a temper tantrum about it will blind you from seeing new opportunities. Master the art of "double vision" - closely watch the immediate situations and challenges facing your company, while also looking ahead to the trends that will shape your company in the months ahead.
2. Think of your career as a verb, not a noun. Career development is a continuous and active process and it is your responsibility - nobody else can do it for you. Spend the first months on the job getting the lay of the land, while keeping questions like these in mind: What is my new organization's culture? What is most important to my boss? What's most important to my boss's boss? How does my job contribute to my company's bottom line?
3. Understand how your organization gets its work done. This one requires initiative because formal organizational charts no longer tell the story; the same goes for job descriptions and job titles. Questions to consider are: Who are the movers and the shakers of the organization? Who are the employees who get the best projects? How do I get on these teams?
4. Be crystal clear about your strengths - but do not stop there. It is up to you to figure out how your strengths help your organization's productivity, position in the marketplace and bottom line. Step forward in interactions with the team and your boss to make your strengths and your specific contributions known. Make certain you use language that translates your contributions into actions your company values.
5. Forget the "corporate ladder". It probably doesn't exist anymore, and anyway, the ladder is too limited and narrow in terms of the opportunities it can offer. In place of the ladder, think of the "corporate network". You do not always have to be moving up in order to succeed. Sometimes lateral moves can be more beneficial than vertical ones. Brainstorm to identify other options.
6. Be clear about how you want to grow. Organizations understand that to keep their talent from walking out the door, they have to entice workers to stay, and often that enticement is the promise of skill building and development. But you are the one that has to figure out what skills you want to build and which opportunities you consider developmental. If you don't know this by yourself there is no way any organization is going to spend time trying to figure it out for you.
7. Remember who owns your career - you! Your ability to maintain control of your career, especially in situations like the ones we are currently facing, will keep you employable - if not employed. Keep an eye out for the work that needs doing and the clients that need to be served. Develop your "career ownership" mindset - this will make you nimble enough to find another spot in your organization - or in another one.

Ben Nash


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