Managing Your Career Proactively

During the economic downturn, it was sad for us to hear the stories of many talented long time employees who were let go as their employer closed its doors or could no longer pay their salaries. I’m sure you know someone who was employed for 10, 20 or even 30 years at a company, dedicating their heart and soul, only to be let go during the worst economic period since the Great Depression.  After watching now three recessions during my executive search career, I’ve observed how important it is to manage your career proactively.

Now that the economy is heating back up, it’s been interesting to observe those individuals and how they’ve managed their careers.  Some of them found a new, rewarding role, similar to the one they had, but sometimes at a lower salary, or they found a new career that exceeded their wildest dreams, wondering, “why did I wait so long?”  Some, simply found a new lifestyle to match the employment they could find.  Others, however, were emotionally devastated by the loss. . . still bitter or “in mourning,” and are still unable to find their way.

Lessons Learned

During the last recession more than ever, those who managed their careers in a proactive way fared much better than those who reacted to the changes thrust upon them.  And we can all learn from those who survived and even thrived.  You, too, can be proactive by paying attention to your “portfolio” of marketable, transferrable, skills, continually improve yourself with training to increase your skills in areas of high demand by employers, and constantly and honestly assessing your work performance and the value you’re bringing to your employer.   You can do this by keeping documentation on significant projects,  the positive impact they made on your department and your company, and by quantifying the value of those outcomes to your employer, you’ll be ready to tell that success story later!

More importantly, and certainly the most overlooked aspect of proactively managing your career, is building your network.  While most people think building a network of contacts is nothing more than sales, effectively building a network of contacts is quite simply about “giving before you get,” or helping others.   No matter your profession, if you make meeting new people a priority, take an interest in what they are trying to achieve, and look for ways to help them, even in the smallest ways, you’ll build a strong, loyal network that can serve you, personally and professionally, for the rest of your life.  Equally important is you’ll make a positive difference in the lives of many.

It truly is that simple, and finally, networking has been researched, and the results are poignantly discussed in a book called Give and Take:  A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D.  We highly recommend you add this to your reading list!