Do you manage your career or manage your strategies?

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Jun 11

For years, I’ve contemplated why “career management” doesn’t happen. I’ve thought most people believe that they should manage their career, but few of us do that. It’s like saving for retirement: we all know we should do it and then we hit 60-years old and discover there isn’t much time left to save!

Why don’t we “manage” our careers? Over the last several months on blog hiatus, I’ve thought a lot about that. Most people — or pundits, I should say — think you should be managing your career every single day. Some even every hour of every single day.

But that’s not how work works.

We go into work every day, figure out what tasks need to get completed that day, and if we’re really good, we try and do a few things to hit some goal we want to achieve. I’ve had this rule that I made up about how much you can get done: max of three things a day at work if you are lucky and one thing when you come home. Anything more than that is pure gravy and rarely happens.

And 99% of the time, none of those things have much to do with “career management.”

Yet, career advice is desperately needed — just look at how hard it is to find a new job. Building resumes, doing job interviews, researching companies, trying to look for a job when you already have a job.

Or look at making the decision to move to another city to take a promotion with your company. Worth it?

Or making a decision to leave a job and start looking for a new one. Right decision?

When I laid out what happens during a career, I finally had the paradigm shift: it’s not career management that should be the focus of helping someone in their career. No, it is career transitions where people need the help.

Sure, there are office politics and there is work around goal setting and performance reviews (important work…), but most of the need for advice centers around career transitions. That brief time — two weeks to two months — where major decisions are made that impact your work and livelihood for many months to come. Decisions that can start you down a completely different trail in your life and work.

When you look back on your work so far, what were the most difficult times? What were the hardest decisions to make? How did you make those decisions? Chances are, those times were when you had to make some choice that was going to make a big impact on your life and work. Decisions that would impact your income, your family, and even your circle of friends.

It is those times of transition where you would like the help. And that’s the place I’d like to help you.

Career management, after all, is a lot like the definition of management: executing strategy decisions that have already been made into something real and tangible. Important stuff, but a lot of that stuff is the grind of execution, the continuous work to complete the tasks in a plan.

Career transitions, though, are the strategy decisions that are made to go in a new direction. It’s the making the decision to pass a car, pulling into the passing lane on a two-lane highway where all of a sudden your whole perspective changes. You are breaking rules by driving on the “wrong” side of the road. There is the uncertainty around if the decision to pass was the correct one — especially when you see that car coming down the road right at you. It’s deciding where the point of no return lies, where you can still go back to where you were with the risk not taken. Or when you decide you must press on, but change tactics to pass that car safely.

Career management is making it to the other side of the car, getting set up on your lane all over again, and doing the things you wanted to do after you passed that car. Good things to do, of course, but nowhere near the risky strategy of deciding and then the passing of the car.

Most of us are not in that situation now, the need to pass the car, that place of deciding to make a career transition. But if you are, I can help through products for DIY approaches to making a transition to personal, one-on-one coaching.

When that transition time comes, you’ll need that Cubicle Warrior mentality. And a great coach and mentor to help you in your transition.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.