A large number of professionals continue to mistakenly subscribe to the notion their organizations are responsible for managing their careers. They suppose that their Human Resources departments or their bosses would create their career paths and guide them at each stage.
Predetermined Job Ladders?
Certain organizations–the military, the police force, for example–may offer predetermined job ladders. It is customary in these organizations to award promotion based on length of service, training completed, or, to a lesser extent, on-the-job achievements.
Other organizations offer ‘development programs’. (Refer to this list of Leadership Programs offered by General Electric.) Essentially, these programs comprise of a series of rotational assignments across diverse functions of the corporation. For example, the manufacturing-leadership program at a capital goods company may involve four six-month assignments–one assignment each in supply chain management, shop-floor operations, production capacity planning and manufacturing finance. These development programs enable an apprentice to be exposed to a broad range of functions and gain valuable experience. Even with these programs, though, you are expected to pursue a longer-term assignment in one of the functional areas at the end of the rotations. Beyond that, employees are expected to manage the rest of their careers.
You Manage Your Career
Your career growth is solely your responsibility– it not the organization’s or your boss’s duty. You should be responsible for planning your own career, continually evaluating goals and implementing initiatives for your professional growth.
Here are a few suggestions to help you establish a roadmap for the skills, expertise and experience you need to get where you want to be.
- Research for job opportunities at your company and in other organizations. What skills are recruiters looking for in potential employees?
- Study the profiles of successful people in your industry. Why are they successful? What are their academic backgrounds? What are their career paths? What professional associations do they belong to?
- Reach out and network. Meet as many people as you can by joining professional associations and maintaining regular contact. Studies have shown that 70-80% of all executive jobs are found through professional networking.
- Seek a mentor’s help. Request a member of your management team or industry association, a retiree or a local business owner to help you understand your strengths and interests and develop a career plan in your chosen industry.
- Volunteer and be known. When you volunteer on cross-functional committees for product improvement or professional development, the decision-makers can get to know you, your skills, abilities and career interests. Such exposure will help them consider you for challenging assignments.