I’m passionate about “career management,” a phrase I use to talk about taking personal responsibility for our individual careers. Long gone are the days when a company had loyalty towards employees, specifically keeping them on-board for decades and providing a healthy pension after retirement. How many companies are offering a lifetime job with nice benefits after retirement? Not many.
Why, then, do we not take a more active role in our own career management? It seems that most people are managing their careers the same way we used to 30 years ago, when job security meant a lot more than it does now.
Before I lost my job I encouraged my dad to network, since he was looking at an eventual transition. I counseled him to network because networking is a big part of career management. But I completely neglected my own career management, essentially refusing to network!
Why would I be quick to suggest networking to him, but not do it myself?
I thought if I went to a non-work networking event I would be cheating on my employer. Worse, I thought I would be cheating on my team members, who counted on me to keep the ship afloat. I didn’t think I needed to network because my job was secure... so I thought! In reality, I was only weeks away from my own layoff. And neglecting my own career resulted in a long, difficult and depressing job search.
Now my message is that we all need to take an active role in our own career management. Usually owners and HR managers at companies don’t like to talk about their employees career management. The idea of an employee managing her own career has always been the the pink elephant in the room. Only coaching on internal promotions was acceptable. No one knows where they’ll be in five years. Even though companies plan for changes in personnel, they don’t talk about it frankly.
Well, maybe some companies are talking about it.
A few years ago I was talking to a senior HR executive at a large company about individual career management, and the power an employee can bring to the company if they have a strong network. I was advocating for employee empowerment, which would ultimately help them in their career. Not only can they bring the right contacts to the table to help a company move forward, if they are empowered by their employer to manage their career, they should have positive feelings about the employer (and the employer’s brand) after they leave.
In our conversation, the senior executive said they made it clear to employees that they probably would not be with them in five years. This could be because of a change in the business, or a change in the employee’s life/career. Either way, each employee should know they are responsible for his/her own career management, and should be doing things in preparation for a future transition.
I was blown away! I didn’t know a company, especially of that size, would frankly talk about this “pink elephant” issue. I was happy to hear they took an honest approach and helped warn their employees to prepare.
What if more companies addressed this pink elephant head-on? What if we empowered employees to do what they need for their career? Could there be measurable benefits to the company? In addition to the normal training and professional development, here’s are some ideas to help your employees with their own career management.
Provide training to employees on topics such as personal branding or informational interviewing. These are key components of a job search, but think about what it can do for a team in an organization. Having team members with strong personal brands could put your company on the map and become better recognized through your thought leaders and subject matter experts. Developing informational interview skills will help your team reach out to colleagues in the industry, or in your prospects industries, and nurture important relationships. Here are some ideas to help your clients take more responsibility for managing their own careers:
Train and encourage them to increase their social media presence, while maintaining a professional brand, representing themselves as subject matters experts.
Help them develop their professional bios and understand how to effectively communicate brand elements with stories.
Show them how to leave comments on industry blogs as a tactic to increase their visibility and showcase their expertise
Train them to get informational interviews with industry experts.
Help them understand how to effectively complete informational interviews, in a professional manner, as opposed to driving it towards a job search discussion (which is what most informational interviews are perceived as).
Encourage networking, both in and out of the company. Teach your employees how to network, how to follow-up, why to maintain relationships. Give them tools to manage and pursue those relationships and encourage them to become associated with players in the industry. As they do this they act as ambassadors for your organization. It is unlikely they will find another company that allows them such freedom to grow. I wonder how many would actually want to leave such a nurturing, empowering organization. Here are some ideas you can use to foster a networking environment:
Host speed networking events during the day to give your clients opportunities to practice their elevator pitches and hone their communication skills.
Teach workshops on networking topics including body language, elevator pitches, and small talk.
Help clients understand the why and how of networking, using books like Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi), Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty (Harvey Mackay) and Little Black Book of Connections (Jeffrey Gitomer).
Encourage clients to attend industry networking events and come back with a certain number of new connections.
Train your clients to follow-up, and stand out from their competition.
Perhaps the hardest part of this concept is convincing an employee that you are doing this for them and not have them wonder if they are on the shortlist for a pink slip. Or maybe the hardest sell will be to the executives, who are afraid of what this empowerment might do to their workforce (making them more marketable to other employers). The benefits to the company could be measurable, though.
Is this far-fetched? Tony Hsieh, of Zappos fame, paid new hires to leave in the first week they were hired. Why? Because hiring the wrong person can cost the company more than $2,000. If having the right person on your team is that important, doesn’t it make sense to empower them, even if that means empowering them to leave?
Ferrazzi, K. (2005). Never Eat Alone. NY: Crown Publishing Group.
Gitomer, J. (2006). Little Black Book of Connections. Austin, TX: Bard Press.
Mackay, H. (1999). Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. NY: Crown Publishing Group.
Jason Alba created JibberJobber.com, a personal relationship management tool for professionals to manage their own careers. He authored the book I’m on LinkedIn - Now What??? and speaks across the country on career management. His latest project is a new video training system for career centers to reach more of their audience in a better way. Learn more at JasonAlba.com or follow him on Twitter @JasonAlba.
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