Who is managing your career?

I heard a story the other day about a woman who hired a career coach to help her manage her career. She had a decent job at a company she liked, but she wanted to move up. So she hired a coach to help her secure a promotion. Many months and thousands of dollars later, she got her promotion. She was elated, and threw herself into her new job. Then, without warning, she got laid off. Now she is struggling to find her next job. She felt like she had been sucker punched. What had happened?

When I heard this story, I asked myself the same question, how could this happen? And could she have prevented it?

 

Here are three principles I believe would have helped this woman land on her feet.

1. Avoid tunnel vision.

Your career extends beyond your current place of employment. This woman was completely focused on getting a promotion at her current job. Since she was struggling to find a job once she was on her own, I suspect she had a bit of tunnel vision. She forgot to make sure she was not just qualified for the internal promotion, but was also marketable outside her current company. As you take on projects, and build your skills and portfolio of experiences, also consider how that adds to your marketability outside your company.

 

2. Stay open to options.

Once you realize your career extends beyond your current job and current employer, it is easier to see options. Even while pursuing a promotion internally, it would have been wise to look for options in other places. Do some research, see what’s out there, maybe even apply for a few jobs that look interesting. Stay aware of your real options at all times, not just when you need a new job.

 

3. Manage your own career.

It can be tempting to rely on an expert’s advice, like the career coach in the story, or on a company to do right by you, or on the forces of nature to provide for you. If you want to have a career that you love, it is important to remember it is up to you to manage it. You must make specific choices and take actions. A company has priorities that have nothing to do with taking care of you. They might wish they could, but you are not their top priority. A career coach may care about you, but he doesn’t have access to all the facts of your situation. He is there to serve you, to help you achieve your goals. You are the one who cares about what happens to you and are experiencing your situation. You are the one who must observe what’s happening, and take the appropriate action.

 

It is up to you to stay on top of your career, and make the choices and take the actions to move it in the direction you want. When you do that, even if you are unexpectedly laid off, you will land on your feet.

Who is managing your career? What steps can you take today to make sure it’s you?  I invite you to share your thoughts on my blog.

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