The Highlands Company Blog

Career Management in Changing Times

Over the last couple of decades, increases in globalization and technology, and economic changes, have resulted in more frequent organizational restructuring, increased workloads, more short-term contacts, increased changes in skills required in the workforce, more part-time jobs and an increase in working from home. The COVID pandemic has only intensified the rate of these changes, driving more people than ever to work remotely or to modify their work roles in other ways.

The types of jobs available have also changed. Many careers, such as in technology, did not exist twenty years ago, while others, such as heavy engineering, have reduced dramatically. In twenty years, there will be a whole raft of new types of jobs and careers created as the world changes.

With the increase in changes comes a demand for a flexible and adaptable workforce. Knowing our strengths and transferable skills is vital for a flourishing career, so we can be prepared for change and uncertainty. For many, the responsibility of career management has shifted from the organization to the individual – a need to manage our own careers and take responsibility for knowing and updating skills and understanding what is required in the market place.

Career management has many different dimensions, including finding the kind of work that is enjoyable and that makes the most of our strengths, that energizes and motivates and that strikes the right work/life balance. Setting career goals to achieve and planning for career transitions are also important to career planning. The following tips are integral to career management success.

1. Make Time for Career Management

It is easy to get wrapped up in work and forget to stand back and think about what we are doing. Often we think about our career and the future when we have to, at appraisal time or when we are faced with a career change or transition. Career management starts with an understanding of what we have in our “tool set” – who we are, what we want, what the workplace demands of us, and what we have to offer. And like any project, career management is about planning, taking action, and reviewing activities.

Having a vision of where we want to get to in our career helps, of course, as we can visualize what we want and work out how to achieve it, but this is an aspect of career management that many find difficult. Not everyone is able to visualize into the future and imagine where they will be in ten years time. Not everyone sees their future as being at the top of the tree; others find career satisfaction from different sources; and even short term plans assist to focus activities.

2. Know Your Strengths

Research from the field of positive psychology has shown that people who understand and use their strengths tend to be happier, less stressed, more confident, more productive, and more successful at work.

Knowing and working to our strengths is far more powerful and effective than trying to change our weaknesses. The idea is that we maximise use of strengths and minimise use of weaknesses through putting ourselves in positions where we can use strengths. Strengths come from our natural abilities, skills, and personality, and we can usually tell when we are using strengths as we feel energised and motivated. Using weaknesses, on the other hand, is where we feel zapped of energy – these are the things that float to the bottom of our inboxes.

3. Know Your Work Values

Knowing and fulfilling your work values is also important to career satisfaction. For some, it is important to have meaningful work that has a positive effect on others, or it can be a need to manage others, to have challenging problems, to be an expert in their field, to have flexible work, or a need to have a lifestyle balance. Whilst money is important, for many, work is not only about earning – career satisfaction is gained from other values.

4. Career Research

Once we have an understanding of our strengths and values we will have an understanding of what we want from work and how we can excel. We also have to know our options – what are the opportunities? This can be opportunities within your organization or externally, but continual networking and research aids understanding of what and where these opportunities are.

5. Develop Yourself

We are all familiar with competencies, generally defined as skills and abilities that are required to be successful in a position or career. Competencies can also be grouped into the two broad categories of Leadership competencies and Technical competencies.

Understanding those competencies required in your career or future career and understanding ourselves through self-assessment and feedback from others, means we can do some gap analysis as to where strengths can be developed, weaknesses minimized, and skills gained. There are hundreds of ways to learn and develop. For technical competencies, research indicates that almost 70% of learning and competency development takes place through on-the-job learning — increased by extra activities such as being involved in demanding projects or cross-functional teams, for example. For leadership skills, these can include self reflection, reading, training, classroom learning, coaching, mentoring, observing a high performer, dialogue with a senior leader, and 360 degree feedback.

6. Create a Plan

Research has shown success in goals is hugely increased by writing them down. By creating a career plan we can monitor our effectiveness over time in relating our progress to our goals, and then we have evidence of our success. It also helps at times, such as appraisals, when we have evidence to support our continued learning and development. It gives focus to self-marketing and builds confidence. As they say, if you don’t know where you are going, you are unlikely to get there!