Why your company and economy matters to your career

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Every time I put up one of those posts that talks about the bigger picture (say, of a company, or the economy), there is a little voice inside that says, “This isn’t really about career management; get back on topic.” And since the economy, via the market, has pretty much been imploding lately, that voice has gotten stronger.

This weekend, I thought long and hard about what really constitutes “career management.” If you look around at many of the career management blogs, read career management books and listen around the water cooler, your company and economy doesn’t come across as relating to your career.

I think your company and, to a lesser extent, the economy, do have a significant impact on your career and how you can manage it. Let’s examine the economy first.

The economy limits your career choices

At a macro level, when the economy is tanking as it is now, there is less ability to move in a corporation or between companies. It’s tougher to change careers.

The economy also sets a tone. When the Dow drops 777 points in one day and is down another 600 points at one point in another day, rational corporate executives have to ask themselves how prepared their company is for bad times. Even if they don’t see bad times for their own company, they start to question whether or not the company should start being more fiscally conservative. Start looking harder at projects. Start paring back on budgets. It is perfectly understandable that if there is a meltdown going on next to you, you need to ask when the meltdown will get to you.

Your company limits or expands your career choices

If your company is doing well, there are more opportunities to get bigger projects, more responsibility, move to different departments and make more money.

If your company is not doing well, you run a higher risk of being laid off. You work more on the status quo because there are no projects to work. Your ability to accomplish goals is reduced along with your ability to learn new job skills. All of that reduces your opportunity. And job skills plus performance is the foundation of your career because skills and performance gives you opportunity.

You have most control of your career in your company

There are many people who unconsciously separate their “job” and their “career.” Sure, the job might be part of your career, but managing your career is something done outside of the work you do on your job.

That’s dangerous.

What you have most control over in your career is the work you doing right now. In the company and the job you are in. Want to expand your job skills? You have to start with the base of skills you have right now in your job. Want to improve your performance? You do that right now in the company you are in. You want to change to a different career? That starts with transferring your skills from the job and company you are now in.

Your work in the company gives you the best opportunity to gain new skills. Your work right now determines your performance rating that makes you desirable to other managers. Your accomplishments right now in your work determine how far you can take your career.

Understanding how your company is doing is critical to your career because where you are right now is the constraint you need to work on to make your career better.

When you are working on your career, don’t be fooled by the limitations of what makes up “career management.” It’s not just resumes, finding the next position or dancing to avoid a layoff. Managing your career is everything that affects the cubicle and that’s why I look at the whole picture.

Do you separate “career management” from your work?

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