You’re the CEO of you

Your career is precisely that – yours. You are the CEO of you before you are the CEO of anything else. Most people spend decades immersed in a career, so you’ll want to find a career that you can enjoy and grow with.

Speaking as a long-time student of the employment business, I look at developing a career from two angles.

  • Career Management, which speaks to managing your career like you would manage your business or a financial asset over the course of many years; and
  • Career Pathing, which refers to advancing in the organization where you work.

Career Management

Managing your career means taking the lead in your career. It doesn’t mean you are actively looking for another job.

Stay informed and take charge of your future. Build a career with a knowledgeable plan. It should be based on your research, values, needs, current situation and where you hope to be in the future. Careers thrive when people keep up with the changes in their field. Keep current in your field through professional associations, publications, websites and social media groups.

That said, even careful, thoughtful people can be blindsided by the unpredictable. The past year has been tough for ­­restaurant owners, pilots, performers, conference planners, commercial real estate investors, and many others whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.

COVID has shown us we need to be as versatile and adaptable as we can be going forward. You never know what’s ahead, and we can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Career readiness is important in managing your career. It starts with making sure your current job is setting you up to be marketable. Also, keep your resume up to date and be financially prepared for a departure that is not by choice.

Career Pathing

Career pathing is the process through which an employee charts a course for career development inside a particular organization. It focuses on identifying vertical and lateral opportunities for advancement or progression for each employee.

So let’s start with your first day on the job. Actually, start with the interview. If career growth is important to you, make it part of the interview process.

Companies give you time to ask questions, so asking them about what they do to invest in the growth of their people sends a clear message that you are looking to advance your career.

When you start a new job, you will always have a million questions. While you are getting these questions answered, don’t forget about your growth.

If you are with a manager or a company that does not invest in their people’s growth, it’s often up to you to decide how you are going to grow. Managers are not mind readers. If you haven’t brought it up, they don’t know it’s important to you. No one will care more about your career than you, so the first step is to make sure they know.

At my firm we see thousands of resumes during the course of a year. As we scan these resumes, we know exactly what to look for. Career progression inside an organization is at the top of that list. We want to understand every move or promotion you had and how you achieved them. Why were you the chosen one?

The other area that we do a deep dive into is your career transitions. Why did you leave company A for company B? Were you recruited? Often times a former manager will come calling. For us, this is a good sign and is noted in our files.

Final Thoughts

Throughout this article, I have tried to make my career advice simple street smarts that everyone can understand. I don’t presume to know where you are in your career, but I’m pretty sure it takes up a great deal of your time and energy. Who knows what could happen if you decide to take some courses, expand your network, and set new goals at work? What I do know is you are the CEO of your career.

Originally published June 2021 in Celebrate Arkansas magazine

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