Your Career Q&A: How to Manage Your HR Career

By Martin Yate Dec 5, 2017
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​As the year winds down, career columnist Martin Yate will explore the complex challenges of successful career management. Below is part one of a series of four columns. 

Thank you for sharing your realistic approach and insight into HR topics. In your column What's the Best Career Advice You've Ever Gotten?, the 10th piece of advice is "Manage your career, or you'll just have a series of very similar jobs that don't advance your interests." 

That's a very true statement, so I'm interested in learning what has worked for you in managing your career and if you have any direction that you would like to share with those currently trying to manage their careers. 

Jamie,
Phoenix 

This is such a complex question, asked in so many ways by readers of the column, that over the coming three weeks I am going to mash some of the questions I've received together and lay out a new approach to career management that replaces endless self-sacrifice with a strategy that puts your success, financial stability and personal fulfillment at its center. Let's get started by talking about the current career management environment.

The metrics say that the average professional's career spans 50 years. We change jobs (not always by choice) about every four years on average, and it is reasonable to expect to have three or more distinctly different careers. No one gets through this without navigating some rough waters along the way, especially as job tenure is steadily declining per Bureau of Labor Statistics ongoing studies

Further, the impact of robotics will likely cause the elimination of 16 percent of all jobs by 2027, 9 percent of which will be replaced with new jobs and professions—most probably in the artificial intelligence arena. On top of this, recessions come around with almost clockwork regularity every seven to 10 years. Do the math and see that informed career management is a must-have skill. 

But these alarming statistics can signal times when the job market is primed to expand. If you take the time to evaluate your financial stability and your skills, you'll see an increase in: 

  • Your ability to get job interviews.
  • Your ability to turn those interviews into offers.

Why Traditional Career Management Fails

Traditional career management has changed little since its emergence during the second half of the 20th century. This career advice can be boiled down to, "Get an education, work hard, be loyal and make sacrifices, and you will be rewarded with long-term employment stability." Obviously, this no longer holds true. 

And when and if professionals do lose their jobs, what they hear is that their job was outdated and that they need to go into further debt for a new degree, certificate or training. This advice is clearly out of sync with the need for a successful, stable and fulfilling life in these increasingly insecure times. Accordingly, developing new career management strategies and the tactics for their implementation should form a critical part of anyone's long-term professional success equation. 

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

You may hear of a potential merger of your company with another. You know that often means layoffs are on the horizon, yet you think to yourself, "That won't happen to me! I work hard, I'm loyal … ." Employers no longer see themselves as caretakers for their employees. It is your job to adapt and guide your career.

Every day in my coaching and resume practice, I see people who are traumatized at being laid off and distraught that they have neither the plan nor the tools to get back on track and manage their lives more productively going forward.

When an unexpected layoff happens, or if we just can't stand our current company any longer, we often take a job that is not the best for our long-term goals but is the first one that comes along. And that results in "a series of very similar jobs that don't advance your interests."

Next week in the second part of the series, Martin will discuss practical career resolutions for the new year—including protecting your job and boosting your employability.

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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