Career Management – how to survive and thrive in the modern working world.

Career Management (CM) is a three part process for managing an independent career.

In the past the majority of people were trained for work and spent much of their working life in a role or in positions with employers until they retired. Many employees had only one or two employers in their entire working lives; a situation that seems unreal in today’s world. Employers would take young people in, train them in the culture and practices of the company, and develop them to fill the roles they needed. Employees trusted employers and were loyal if they were well treated.

Professional people were less settled, and operated in a more flexible way. They had to manage their career more actively and take responsibility for their own development, training and future planning. Successful professionals might work in partnership with others to gain some of the advantages of corporate life while still maintaining their own career with care. The skills needed were learned from mentors, networking and professional associations, which were and are an essential element of this career management process.

In the new world of work, we all work in the same way. Contracts or jobs are shorter term and variable, we may have more than one at a time, and we may move between contracts on a regular basis. Zero hours is now common, and nobody is immune to redundancy or termination of a contract. Life has changed, it is fast and flexible, and we need to keep up. CM skills are necessary for all of us today.

1) Personal Development – the essential process for survival in the modern working world.

Everyone seems to be talking about personal development these days, but do not mistake this for self-indulgent navel-gazing or egoism. We are all working as independents today, and personal development is your vocational training and continuing education. Standing still is not an option in a changing world. You cannot opt out; if you are not learning (informally or formally) you are moving backwards.

If you are starting out on CM, take this seriously. Start a folder with proper files and build up a record and working documents to monitor, record and direct your learning. This may be on paper or in an electronic format, but it becomes the basis for your CVs, and guides and informs your contract hunting activities. It produces your personal brand, the You you are selling. You are going to have to work on yourself in the way you trusted your educators to do it in the past.

If you are already on the journey, I recommend investing time in the process of analysing and developing this aspect of your working life. It can really help in coping with the demands of a challenging working environment, and is essential when job searching.

What are the key areas for personal development?

Who Am I?

Create a bio of your life to date with all relevant dates, locations, education, employment and qualifications. Make a note of the gains you had from each of these periods in your past. What can you offer because of that experience? Develop an effective elevator statement and formalise your mission statement and objectives. If you don’t know who you are and what you are doing, how is anyone else going to know?

What do I need to learn next?

Do a full, detailed SWOT analysis on yourself. List the things that you are aware of needing to work on. Technology is a constantly moving target so make sure you include updating these skills. Keep a record of what you are learning and how it is helping you. Look for transferrable skills. Look for sources of training in the things you need to brush up on. Social media is full of suppliers who will offer free or paid services. There are plenty of self help books and resources available: be discriminating about these. Look for real life learning opportunities and make notes of what you learn from experience. You are now your own HR and R&D department.

How do others see me?

Everyone is a personal brand today. Your reputation is an essential asset in this working environment. While it is perfectly okay to be yourself and be prepared to allow others to get to know you and make their own judgement of you, beware of overexposing yourself. Set boundaries and maintain them, or your wellbeing can be impacted by others who have no boundaries or don’t respect yours. Social media is the great communication tool of the modern age, but do not mistake it for a level playing field or an honest marketplace. Separate your private communications and your professional offering and don’t do stupid things in private and believe they will stay private. Nobody lives there.

Develop your Brand –

Decide on your personal business persona and share it with the world. Be honest in what you do, say and mean; integrity of these three shines like a beacon and people soon see through deceit and artifice. Be honest, be consistent, and be ready to repel unwelcome boarders and ignore trolls. Be you, say what you do clearly, and be consistent. You can be sure that any interviewer you meet is going to have looked at your online presence; you need to control what they see. Savvy employers will not take a risk on a person with a poor media reputation, but a good profile and reputation are a saleable asset in contract negotiation today.

Emotional Intelligence matters for success in the modern working world.

You might wonder why CM is a key interest for Campbell Education, but it is well recognised that developing EI is an essential aspect of surviving in the modern working environment. Failing to develop emotional intelligence is a minefield of personal and social disasters. The days of the abusive manager being sheltered by their loyal secretary and understanding organisation are coming to an end. Nobody can rely on others to manage the fallout of emotional incompetence in the contract economy. Emotionally immature people are a liability that small, flexible businesses that trade on their brand cannot afford to take on. Social accountability in a socially connected world means that nobody wants to.

The stresses and personal demands of CM are undeniable, and few people now have the luxury of having other people to deal with these on their behalf and lead them through the working world by the hand. We are our own navigator and pilot today. Learning the personal skills that underpin thinking and behaviour is not difficult if you find the right supplier. Campbell Education is not the only place to learn, but Technical Performance Training (TPT) is a fast, targeted approach to learning the basic skills of EI developed specifically for the working world.

For many people the idea of CM is daunting and stressful. Learning to manage your internal responses and develop personal resilience, social skills and creative thinking need to be on everyone’s must-do training list. If you are not familiar with these, get some training.

2) Know your Industry

It is surprising how many people work within an industry and have little idea of how it functions, how it is changing and what the future will be. That’s fine if you are working in a role where other people are dealing with those things, but if you are an independent trader, contractor or entrepreneur, you are on your own recognisance. There are things you need to be sure you know.

What industry are you working in or interested in entering?

What does your industry or work involve? Make sure you know how the work you are interested in is defined, how it fits in with the economy as a whole and how it is regulated. Who are the major movers and shakers and how is it overseen and controlled. What area of the Government has an interest in the industry and how does it operate at a local, national and international level. Are there key associations and awarding bodies involved? Failing to know the basics will not make you look like a contender; knowing your onions will.

Every industry started somewhere.

It is always worth looking at the history of the industry and the development of the organisations that operate in it, especially the legislation that has shaped it. This can help you understand some of the possibly illogical practices and habits that exist in every line of work, and help you to look like a knowledgeable and interested person.

Who are the major players in your industry?

Do some research on the big players, at the least you should know how they compete and what the differences are between their offerings. Who do you want to work for or with, or who would you compete with as a contractor or business? Aligning your brand with one of the big players is a way of helping people understand your own philosophy, and will make sure they know you know your stuff. Pay attention to the language of your industry. Most founders and major names will have a social media profile you can follow and learn from.

Know the rules and follow them!

Make sure you are up to date and familiar with the legislation and regulations. No excuses will help you if you break the law and end up in court, and it is surprising how many people you will come across who are ignorant of the law or simple expect to ignore it! Serious players expect everyone they work with to be competent in this.

Where are we going?

Nothing is static in the 21st century, particularly in any industry that relies on technology. Keep up to date on where your industry is heading, and make sure you are preparing to ride the wave, not swim in the trough behind it. The last thing you want is to be left behind when the whole industry tilts or pivots. Be prepared, be knowledgeable, be impressive.

How can you get connected in your chosen industry?

Are you a member of the right professional association? Look for the one that has updating services, ongoing educational opportunities and provides advice and networking opportunities. You may need to work at it to get in, and the subs will be an annual fee, but you will gain by saving time and expense on accessing the professional information you need and being kept abreast of developments. If you can’t afford the fees in your early years, ask friends and family to pitch in for Christmas and birthdays. Get your priorities right!

Where are the networking opportunities? Who do you already know? Are there opportunities for sharing, learning and collaboration? Who are you going to learn from? Who are you going to avoid? Do your research and put out feelers to appropriate individuals. At the very least, follow them on social media and start to get to know what they are doing and interested in.

Do not email or Direct Message people and ask them to help you! If you don’t know how to network, get some coaching. Asking for help out of a blue sky simply shows that you are green and completely unprepared for work, so just be around online and let people get to know you. When they see you are active in a meaningful way they will start to notice you and recognise your brand. Once you have a specific proposition or suggestion, then make your move, which must start with a polite introduction. If this is all new to you, get some coaching!

3) Know your route

Nobody can know everything about where they are going or what will happen – although they can certainly know where they are and how they came to be here! If you have done stages 1 and 2 well you should have a good idea of where you are and how things might go. Now it is time to do some planning. Write in chalk, you may need to revise and correct on a regular basis, but make sure you have a development plan for each of the following. You are focusing on futureproofing your life.

What do I need to learn to do to keep up?

Nothing stays the same. Keeping your skills and knowledge up to date and looking ahead is essential, and shows other people that you are a serious contender and not a follower. You need to maximise your transferrable skills. Increasingly people will have more than one career in a lifetime. Have a very loose idea of where you want to be in ten, twenty, thirty years from now. Be prepared to change your mind; you never know how wonderful things could be if you are ready to take chances. Just living in the moment will not necessarily lead you to the places you want to be in the future. Having a plan, however loosely defined, probably will!

Where is my industry going?

Twenty years ago every third schoolboy was going to be a website designer. They knew nothing about SEO and probably do not work in the industry today anyway. Today’s IT is tomorrow’s paperweight. It only takes a smart operator with a good idea to make your role redundant, so be ready to adapt and survive. Keep an eye on how things are shaping up and how you might pivot or side step into a new opportunity. Watch the movers and shakers; what are they doing? Where are the openings in the market? You never know, you may turn out to be the smart operator with the good idea!

How is your money working for you?

There is no reason to pour every penny you earn into a savings account, we don’t live to make money, but living on tick and denying your credit card bill is no way to secure a healthy and happy future for you and your future family. Fortunately there are now many automated services to help you with this, and a range of skilled professionals to help. Hint: Do not listen to what they say, look at what their customers say, and do the research! Use your technology to get a handle on your money.

You seriously cannot start thinking about this too early. Learning to use money skilfully and make it work for you is an essential part of adult life. If you wonder if that applies to you, ask someone who is retired with a pension and a paid up mortgage. You never know when disaster is going to fall, but it is much easier to take it philosophically when you have a healthy bank balance behind you.

I don’t have time for that!

Then don’t do it. Work for other people and make their dreams come true. If you make the right choices, and find a good employer or three, you may be fortunate enough to build a happy, satisfying life working in a comfortable way. Just be aware that nobody’s job is guaranteed these days. If you find yourself job hunting you are going to have to do these things anyway. These are the skills you will need to use to get the next great job you want. It makes sense to have done the work in the past and just update it once a year. Why would you not want to be ready for anything?

Your career is one of your greatest assets. Invest in it, value it, and enjoy it.

Helen Campbell. May 2021.

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