Who is actually in control of your career – your boss or the company or you? Really? Career control – isn’t it strange how often we leave that to others? And with what consequences?
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So Are You In Or Out Of Control Of Your Career?
Almost every one of my coaching programs needs to address this question, irrespective of age, seniority, gender, profession, role, employee, leader or worker. Why? Because with the growing degree of “treadmill speed” and increased need for competitiveness, so many of us are so busy, that we inadvertently give our career control away, or simply leave it to others “to take care of” for us, without actually being aware of that and of how we are doing so.
What would you say could be true for you? If so, deep down, doesn’t that really irk you? I know that before I became a coach this lack of awareness and consequently abdicating control was quite true for me in my corporate career.
Are You Still Hanging On To Old Paradigms?
It is certainly no secret how the markets in which we operate and consequently our career world have changed and is still changing around us, is it? The old paradigms are no longer relevant. Recognizing and adopting or adapting to change has become the norm. And it is in this ever changing playing field that the notion of career control has never been more critical to be aware of than right now.
What do I mean? Well, most people are aware that in the old model of decades of employed tenure within the same company, we were typically in a role for about 4 – 5 years. There seemed to be “typical career paths” and steps for typical professions to follow. In fact a resume with many jobs in many companies was “frowned upon” and considered to be lacking career continuity and consistency.
In today’s “job market” (no matter how junior or senior) we tend to be in a role no more than usually about 2 – 3 years, right? And have you also noticed that longevity with one organization is no longer viewed to be as much of an issue?
However, some longer periods of tenure are still quite “acceptable” depending on the degree of professional specialization. In such situations I have had to challenge certain clients when all their experience was too much in the “safety and continuity” of one company. I was often a catalyst for them to realize that there was a risk of “staleness” and that it may be “time to move on” to new aspects of challenge and stimulation. This can be accompanied by the fear of getting out of our comfort zone and can need quite some supporting to bring about successfully. The reward is inevitably a hindsight vote of acknowledgement how right their decision was.
Of course it is in the context of such “taking career control” situations that we will look at whether and when might be a good time to “go out on our own” be it contracting or consulting or in fact taking our expertise into starting our own company with or without partners or venture funding etc.
In order to do all that we need to be more firmly in control of making sure that we stay on top of the relevance of our skillset, our game, our company, our market and our industry, and our particular “point of differentiation” in order to find (or be offered) relevant roles that interest us and are “good for our career” or go out on our own.
It has been my experience (first from my own career situation) and then working with hundreds of clients that such taking control and such extent of change can be a very scary prospect and so most people simply don’t engage in the necessary degree of change. In fact, some just work harder, hoping that will bring the expected results.
One thing we have all learned together in this case is that “slowing down” to reflect, think, strategize and plan beats “hurrying up” by a country mile. And my clients attest to how helpful it has been to have someone alongside them through this sometimes daunting but exciting period of purpose finding and subsequent change.
The Boss’ Agenda Versus Your Own Agenda Conundrum
Those of us in leadership positions know that this is often hard to orchestrate satisfactorily for most of our players because we are so hard pressed to deliver ever tightening KPI’s (key performance indicators) ever more ruthlessly in order to stay on top, right? (Of course the money we are chasing in these pressure cooker roles is that much more lucrative too these day’s, isn’t it?)
But that’s the scenario. As the employee you want and need to grow. You want to be challenged and stimulated. You want to learn and you don’t want to be bored. You stay “on the move” to drive your personal agenda. You want the results you aspire to.
Conversely, the boss needs continuity and stability in order to meet his or her objectives and to earn their bonuses. There’s the natural tension right there. So if you are “weak” in your career control, the boss will drive the agenda their way. However, if you know what you want, you’ll take charge and “fetch” what you want.
Are You Willing And Able To “Fetch”?
“Fetch?” I hear you say? Oh dear, that means I need to know what I want before I can go about pursuing it. Help. How do I know what that is and how do I do that? A little flippantly put, but you’d be surprised how prevalent this position is “out there”. Remember, the 7 words coaches hear most often: “I don’t really know what I want“.
The first realization necessary here is that you too have a choice when it comes to your career control. You can entrust your career into the hands of one or more large corporates to assist you to drive it to where you want it to go. Or you can take that control into your own hands and be sure that your career follows your own path, your own passion, your own dreams, your own plans and maximizes your enjoyment, your success and your relevance.
I’m sure you will agree with me that the former is no longer such a “safe option”, won’t you? Why? Because companies no longer seem to value loyalty the way the old model did. Bottom line pressures removed the “luxury” of loyalty long ago. And that works both ways, doesn’t it? Leaving your career in corporate hands has become increasingly risky, and in fact untenable.
Courage, Conviction And Confidence?
I urge you to have the courage, the conviction and the confidence to define what you really want (your purpose). Why? Because you know that if you don’t, the risk of you ending up with something you don’t want is so much greater. It’s like that proverbial yacht on the ocean without a rudder – directionless, no matter how hard you try or how hard you work.
However, please remember that you don’t need to do this on your own. There is help available. This is what coaches do so well – challenge you to define and capture what you really want and apart from helping you map out the smartest ways of achieving that, will hold you accountable to do what it takes, so you can’t “chicken out”.
You can ask all or any of my clients, and most of them will attest that this is what we do in most of my coaching programs. Whether you are “Gen X or Y”. Whether you are a “baby boomer” at a fork in your road (as in “I’ve worked so hard all my life and is this all it is…?”). Whether you are a junior just starting out, or you’ve been going a while or a senior with lots of “scars on your back”. Whether you are a president or CEO or an employee or professional, or anything in between, career control is the one thing that I am working on with clients right now.
Are You Willing To Admit To Some Home Truths?
So let me test a few universally applicable home truths to most of my clients with you right now:
- Most admit to having “fallen into” their profession
- Most admit to having “fallen into” their last 3 roles
- Most admit to having spent more time planning a holiday than they ever spent planning their life or their career
- Most still don’t really know what they want or how to go after it
- Most admit to lacking the courage to do it on their own or to consult someone to help
- Most look back in regret rather than in satisfaction when I challenge them on whether they are where they wanted to be.
How true or relevant are these questions for you? And how happy are you with your answers, if you are really honest?
A Great Example
One of my recent clients is now in a new role doing exactly what he does best, leveraging most of his talents, strengths and skills and he has more than doubled his income within this year alone. How did he do that?
Having created a “safe” space to engage in the necessary reflection, he invested heavily in reading and assimilating to test and understand his drivers, his “blind spots”, his derailers and where he lacked belief and confidence in his own ability. I have never worked with a more committed and more determined client.
The clarity of purpose, the vision of not only what he wanted but how to achieve it emerged because he had done all the hard work (on himself). Once he “got out of his own way” and focused on his incredible strengths, experience and ability rather than on his weaknesses and his fears everything he was looking for all along “came to him”.
Why? Because he chose that “enough was enough” and he took career control and also “life control”. Can you imagine the impact he will have on his family, his friends, his peers, his business clients and partners and his colleagues, quite apart from his new acceptance of his self worth? His passion is so infectious!
So why not you?
Can you admit that this topic has raised your blood pressure a little? You know: “Yes – why not me dammit, I have worked so hard for so long, is this all there is for me?”
What if you gave yourself a few minutes to sit back and reflect on the beings, doings and havings that really mattered to you and that you’d really dearly want to achieve (for yourself, for your life and life’s work and for those dependent on you)? What if you knew you couldn’t fail? What might you come up with?
And what if you sought a sounding board, a thinking partner, a running mate that was alongside you to challenge you and then to hold you accountable to setting and kicking those goals? What could you achieve? What are you “settling for” if you don’t have a go?
Go on, contact me and Let’s Talk Coaching. I would be honoured to accompany you on that life changing journey.
You might find other blog articles relevant to this topic of interest at: http://bit.ly/1pnx3az
Ben Davis says
Thank you for this latest installment. Brilliant. Trying to balance the “slowing down to reflect” with the “pressure cooker” environment these days, is incredibly hard and yet, I believe, necessary to align with what you’re saying. You would have almost certainly read “Margin” by Richard Swenson – who took a complete shift in his thinking by moving from a high pressured medical position to a quieter “GP” type role I think, to create that “buffer” (margin) and that necessary time to reflect.
It seems many of us come to that later in life when we’ve been through the ringer of corporate life, and some indeed too exhausted to enjoy the remainder… (No – I’m not quite there yet! 🙂
My conundrum is trying to find the balance of what Swenson is talking about without necessarily “jumping off the train” of corporate life – is it possible to do this!?
Thanks again Heiner, for your insights.