I am often asked what is career management. Career management is the steps you take while you are employed to insure that if you are suddenly unemployed or in an unacceptable situation, you can bounce back quickly with a great new job. Those steps include face-to-face networking with key contacts in and outside your organization; updating your resume, managing your profile and presence on LinkedIn, actually attending local meetings of your professional organization and maintaining certification. At that point, most people tell me that with their family and home to manage, kids, grandkids, pets and aging parents, they don’t have time to do their job at work and do that career management stuff.
The comment bubble over my head says, “well, join the club!” What comes out of my mouth is, “wow, you’re really busy.”
Could you manage being unemployed six months or more? That’s the question you have to answer for yourself if you decide not to proactively manage your career. The situation for 40+ workers is that it takes longer to rebound from an unexpected career transition. That’s how it happens-suddenly, unexpectedly, shockingly fast. Here’s what happened to me.
Memorial Day weekend 1997, I was enjoying a cook-out with family in the Chicago suburbs. A family member came outdoors and said, “Don’t you work for Boehringer Mannheim Corporation?” (badly butchering the Boehringer part) “On CNN they said the company was just sold.” As a member of the human resources leadership team my manager reported to the CEO and I worked closely with the executive team. This made me confident my relative heard it wrong. So, I went inside to listen since CNN cycled the same stories repeatedly on the slow news days of a holiday weekend.
“In a deal exceeding 11 billion dollars Roche Group of Switzerland purchased the German entity, Boehringer Mannheim GmbH in a move that caught industry analysts and experts by surprise.” Everything said after that was a blur. What did it mean? How was I going to be affected personally? Where is my boss? I called his home, no answer. (No cell phones or texts back then.) Finally I reached an HR colleague on the phone. We were both stunned.
My story ultimately had a happy ending. The acquisition was an opportunity to learn a lot about HR very quickly since I had just come to the function from sales a year before. There were more opportunities to learn about global issues. Four years later, because of contacts made and experienced gained, I was able to launch an independent human resource consulting firm. It didn’t have to work out that way and many times it does not.
Managing a career does not have to be a time-consuming activity. You can exchange resumes with a friend and share critiques over a quarterly face-to-face catch-up. Once a week I spend 10-30 minutes managing LinkedIn connection requests, deleting connections trying to sell me anything, hiding inappropriate posts, reading articles and using the “settings” feature to prevent connections from being notified of my maintenance. Once a quarter, I try to enroll in a free webinar, attend a workshop or attend a professional talk. Arizona State’s, ASUx has free courses online and MOOCs (massive open online courses) are offered by many colleges. Over the course of a month, it is a couple of hours at most.
Proactive or reactive, it’s your choice. It’s your career.