Career Ownership

high profile career woman

by Susan Mulholland,  Leadership & Development Coach and Facilitator

When I first returned to Ireland, from the UK, mid-career, I attended a marketing talk given by Terry Prone of Carr Communications. She was the first person to introduce me to the notion of ‘Me Plc’ – the idea that we ultimately all work for ourselves. That we simply hire ourselves out to different organisations along the way. As such, every job that we take, every role that we action must build into the career capital of Me Plc.

I loved this idea.

That every role or work experience allows us to ask ourselves – what new skill have I learnt? What new knowledge have I obtained? What new contacts have I made.

Every quarter, I would sit down and write the answer to those questions. It was a powerful exercise. Particularly beneficial in those roles where I struggled or disliked the job. There was always a learning – even if it was ‘not how to do things’ As I heard a comedian once quip.

‘no one is a complete waste of space – you can at least provide an excellent example of what not to do’!

Build your own business case

“career ownership is a 21st century model of career development and movement within organisations. Individuals take responsibility for their own careers, aligning their strengths and capabilities with the strategic direction of the organisation, and building a business case for that career path”

Over the years, I have run a lot of programmes looking at career development and shaping the future of others. I usually start with the above quotation by Janine Noone who wrote the book Career Ownership. Later in the session, I get participants to articulate how their strengths and capabilities relate directly to the goals of not just their role, or the team, but to the company’s topline objective. I push for specific examples of an activity that they have undertaken in the last week and how that has contributed to the strategic goal of the organisation. It’s a simple, but empowering exercise. Not only for building purpose and motivation, but also for developing relevant language in building a business case for the next promotion or next career step.

You own your own career. The days of waiting for, or expecting the company to design and deliver on a career path for you are gone. The idea of a career for life has been replaced with the concept of ‘what can I learn, as well as earn, in return for a good day’s work’.

Think map of the territory versus sat nav directions

We need to invest in ourselves, at all stages of our career. Like a financial plan, or a household budget, we need to say – ‘what do I want to achieve for this year and how will I do it?’

To do this, we need to learn the skills of career planning. This is more useful than having a career plan. Career planning skills allow us to know which questions to ask ourselves, and which answers to find, at any given stage in our career. To enable us to take the next best step forward in our career.

“Think map of the territory versus sat nav direction” – was advice given to me earlier in my career, as I struggled to work out exactly what I wanted and how I might get there when it came to my career. Map of the territory is about understanding the place that you are in now. Understanding your strengths and the value that you bring. To have a sense of what you want for your career, a direction, if not a destination. How did you get this far, what can you learn from the journey? Who has influenced you along the way, and who might be a useful fellow traveller as you progress? Having the answers to these questions and more, is career planning. It provides a much richer terrain in which to have several paths to follow and clearer first steps to take.

Best of all, it puts you back in control of your own career.

Take ownership of your career today. It’s much more fun in the driving seat, than enduring the back-seat view!