The Seven Principles of a Self-Guided Career

Technology and globalization have had a profound effect on the relationship between employees and employers in the 21st Century. With the average job tenure somewhere between 18 and 36 months the phrase a permanent job is an oxymoron. Today one cannot count on an employer to take care of you. Trading 20-30 years for security is a thing of the past. That having been said, it is the realization of this and the effective decoupling of our career with a specific job, which is the first step in effective career management. Skills and knowledge have replaced loyalty and dependence in today’s very fluid job market. Here are seven principles to help guide you as you self manage your career:

  1. Know thy self. In other words, know what you like and what you want to do. Put some time into this! Close to 70% of people in today’s work force say they are not happy with what they are doing. It is difficult to imagine that you can reach your full career potential not enjoying what you are doing so don’t be in this group. As part of this self-exploration, analyze your strengths and your true successes and come up with your top two or three skills. Based on this strive to bring who you are to what you do. Jumping to the next hot thing will likely fail finding a career that you enjoy could mean the you never need to “work” another day in your life.
  2. Incorporate yourself. Not literally, but philosophically. Think like a business: Invest in yourself. Develop your own mission and build your own brand. Relax and take a longer-term perspective once and a while. That is how business emerges as leaders in their space; you can do this as well.
  3. Master the art of self-promotion. Doing good work by itself will not cut it. You must promote your work and your successes. All successful people are self-promoters. Remember, however, self promotion is the truth about you well told, not half-truths or embellishments.
  4. Constantly reinvent yourself. All things in the universe begin, rise, peak and then wane. You need to continuously reshape how you do things and continuously get better at what you do. You are your product and if you are not learning more or earning more at what you are doing, it is time to make a change.
  5. Build, activate and cultivate a network. We have spent a lot of time discussing the power of networking at past sessions “Networking Basics” and “Advanced Networking”. It is a crucial component to self-guided career management which involves more giving on your part than getting, but which can have dramatic results.
  6. Consider the portfolio approach to work. A portfolio approach to work focuses on a variety of work focused around one theme. For example, if your passion is marketing, taking the portfolio approach to work you may do some consulting for various companies. You may also choose to work part time as the Director of Marketing for a smaller company who cannot afford a full time person. You could also decide to teach a class at a local university and write a few articles based on your experiences. With a little effort those articles could turn into a book and before long you are a perceived expert in the area you have chosen to focus on. This could lead to getting board seats in related companies. If it is still one full time role you desire, this approach may still be a good idea, still it will broaden your contact points and exposure.
  7. Embrace life long education. Pursue learning that will stretch your capabilities. Read and study outside your profession. Don’t make the mistake of getting tunnel vision or focusing too narrowly.

In summary YOU need to be responsible for your own career. DO NOT let any one job define who you are. Go beyond this and define and pursue your own career goals.