Everyone can (and should) own their career


I generally try not to ‘should’ people, but in this case I will. Who’s a career owner? In short, anyone who takes responsibility for his or her career and its direction.

We think of business owners and entrepreneurs as owning their careers, but everyone can…if they choose to do so.  I’m passionate about helping people who are inside organizations as employees define their talents and best direction.  Why? Because as renters of their work, employees today are not contributing, not satisfied and not emotionally connected to it.  And when most of us spend at least a third or more of our days, weeks and months at work, why not make it something not so…well, work-like? Something that gives us energy, allows us to use our talents and makes us significant contributors to our organization’s success?

I do clearly remember my Mother saying “It’s not supposed to be fun…that’s why it’s called work!” But that was in the middle of the Industrial economy, where values reflected the not-so-distant depression era and World War II. Work was manual labor in factories, fields, manufacturing facilities and mechanical shops.  Not so today: there’s limited manual labor driving our economy, computers dominate almost every industry sector,  and continual skills improvement and education are required to stay on top of a changing world.

So what? Here’s so what: this lack of connection with work is costing employees a healthful environment for much of their lives, huge amounts of self-confidence and the motivation of making satisfying contributions; it’s also costing organizations over $375 billion annually in lost productivity.  Given this number (and Gallup has been publishing this information for years), it’s amazing to me that organizations do almost nothing to change this…because it costs money.

So, rather than waiting any longer, employees can choose to take responsibility (i.e. ownership) for their careers, increasing engagement in the work they do, their contribution and their belief-in-self at the same time. When workers’ hearts are connected to their heads and hands, everybody wins: workers, customers and the organization.

The ‘heart’ connection is an emotional link and it comes most often from using strengths and talents, being really satisfied and content with the work.  The emotional link feeds the ‘head’ so there is a clear recognition of the value of the work and its outcomes, and this in turn feeds the ‘hands’ so that excellence in results becomes the standard.

What organization wouldn’t want workers like this? An amazing number, apparently, based upon those that provide no growth opportunities or career options and choose to focus on employee weaknesses.

So it just makes sense: the time has come for everyone who works to take on career ownership. The process to accomplish this is simple, but not easy…takes work on the part of the employee and takes some time to pull the pieces together. But once you own your career, you always own it. Your security belongs to you, you call the shots, and you determine your growth direction. It’s a tremendously smart direction in today’s challenging world of work.

Over the next weeks and months I’ll define the process, the pieces on how to take career responsibility. It’s something you can do on your own, within your current organization, with or without organizational support.  With even a bit of internal support, you can implement growth and career direction within your current workplace. And even without support, you have some certainty around your most satisfying work and best career direction.  So you have information upon which you can choose to take action…or not.

Is your 2009 career direction satisfying or stifling? Stop back, and we’ll help you make sure that you’re doing the choosing.

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5 Responses

  1. Another great post. I am anxious to see what comes next, so keep it coming.

  2. Thanks, Bob…this is the year it comes together! I’m looking forward to your work this year, too!

    Janine

  3. Your post about owing ones career collides directly with the reality of my hierarchic and patriarchal organization. A female cohort and I were talking about the organization’s culture which has offered limited buy-outs and is thinking about how to replace retiring professionals. She and I have at least 8 years in our positions as program assistants, working at a low level of pay and in no way able to think about retiring. Despite our wealth of experience of the organization, they still hardly notice. Once a year we get a cookie during staff appreciation week and a card on our birthdays. The division between us and the next level of staff has not allowed for our inclusion in staff development opportunities that could tap into a our unused education, talents and energy. While ageism is denounced, it appears to exist. The staff development is targeted at the Next generation and they are showered with opportunities. I have taken the initiative to involve myself in (and pay out of pocket for) training opportunies beyond my job description which has, at the least, resulted in an expanded network of contacts. I do not think, however, that leadership has any awareness of the waste of assets that comes from ignoring its middle aged program assistants. Leaving for other work threatens to destroy what health and retirement benefits we have and thus we continue to problem-solve the question of just how to find greater fulfillment in this environment.

  4. Donna: I know your situation to be all too true. Many, many organizations ignore their human resources, even in this economy that requires all the (left & right) brain-power available in order to compete in a global economy. Hierarchy and patriarchy only value robots who do as they are told and don’t ask questions.

    Given this situation, it’s imperative that you take responsibility for your own growth and development–congratulations for doing so. While retirement benefits are important, at what point does a healthy retirement outweigh the costs of your current environment? Health insurance is becoming readily available to individuals and their families even for people with health histories. While owning your career may seem to be a far-off option, what happens if you don’t? What kind of stress, frustration, and lowered self-confidence do you live with every day in your current environment? And, are those things growing or shrinking…and what is the impact on you? The physical, mental and emotional impact of treading water?

    Like many situations, a toxic environment and industrial-economy leadership continue to whittle away at workers’ emotional connection and contribution to the organization. While many organizations are oblivious, there are those that value their workers and know that emotional connection and growth only improve the organization’s strengths. These organizations are fewer, but as old-paradigm leadership leaves and is replaced, cultures change.

    I encourage you to work through the pieces of owning your career (I’ll continue to write about them), and learn to tap into the ‘unpublished’ market. (Your expanded network is a wonderful thing for this.) If you are chained to your current position, one that is sucking the life from you and wasting your talents, how much of yourself are you willing to waste? I also encourage you to talk with a career coach (give me a call or drop me an email) to get a clearer picture of how you can–with some guidance–develop a very clear work direction and a strategic path to follow.

    Whatever your investment in your own development and growth, consider your return over the years you expect to work…and you’ll see that it is huge. Owning your career–even though not as easy as sitting and waiting–is a very smart and satisfying move. Good luck, and stay in touch…I’m all about supporting your ability to use your talents!

    Janine

  5. Janine,

    Your insights are always impressive. Its refreshing to know you can own a career both inside and outside of an organization.

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