Your Career Q&A: Your Career Is Your Business. Run It Like One

 

By Martin Yate December 19, 2017
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This column receives many questions throughout the year about specific issues related to career management, but careers don't happen in a vacuum. You have to put these issues in the larger context of an overall career management strategy and the tactics that will turn your dreams into achievable goals. Last week we discussed practical career resolutions. This week, we examine how treating your career like a business can give you more control over outcomes.

We all want success, and we all make resolutions to pursue it. But many of those resolutions are only wishes, because they are not harnessed to actionable plans for their achievement.

To get started, clear out these ingrained but outmoded beliefs: Get an education, choose a career, work hard, be loyal and make sacrifices to one employer, and in return you will be rewarded with job security, steady professional growth and increasing income. This traditional "company man" approach no longer works—it bears no relation to the realities of today's working world.

Take Control of Your Destiny

When a company fires an employee, or lays one off, the former workers often are told, "It's nothing personal. It's just business." From the corporate perspective, this is true; the employer is doing what it must to survive and maximize profitability—the very reasons for a company's existence, and yours too. Thus, a more business-like approach toward managing your future is called for.

Like a corporation, you too are a financial entity that must survive and prosper over the long term. Start thinking of yourself as a business that makes objective decisions supported by plans, actions and timelines to deliver your desired outcomes.

When you start thinking of yourself as a business, your career stops being something that largely happens to you. Instead, you become the CEO of Me Inc., someone who determines the long-term goals and strategy and the short-term actions that will result in your success and financial stability.
As CEO of Me Inc., your duty is to focus on what is best for the company—you.  When you take the responsibility to determine your company's future with considered plans and actions, you begin to gain greater control over your professional destiny.

Your life is what you make of it, and right now it's time to replace blind loyalty to your employer with a focus on what's best for Me Inc., and put your success, stability and fulfillment at the center of all you do. 

How to Get Started

Me Inc.'s mission is to generate a steadily evolving and diversified revenue stream. Learn to plan and execute your career decisions with the same forethought, objectivity and organizational foundation as any CEO would. Me Inc. needs the same departmental structure of any successful company:

Research and Development (R&D) initiatives. You will stay current with the development of in-demand skills that support your stability, earnings and promotability, while increasing the options available to you on the job market.

Strategic Planning. Monitor the health of your employer, industry and profession. With the insight gained from R&D you will:

  • Develop practical strategies for professional growth.
  • Learn to execute strategic career moves on your timetable.
  • Be able to integrate these factors into a comprehensive plan that maps the pathways leading to Me Inc.'s ultimate goals.

Strategic Planning, working with R&D, may also identify opportunities for the pursuit of completely new entrepreneurial revenue streams.

Marketing and Public Relations (PR). Marketing and PR initiatives increase your credibility and visibility, starting within your department and expanding through the company, local professional community and beyond, as your goals dictate.

Finance and Accounting.  Live up to your dreams rather than being a deeply indebted consumer living up to your income. Spend responsibly and invest in your future by staying current with in-demand skills, education and professional certifications.

Sales. When you pursue promotions or new opportunities, you become a commodity. You need cutting-edge job search skills and effective tools to execute the smoothest possible transition. These include an effective resume, social media presence, network-integrated job search tactics and knowing how to turn interviews into offers, just to name the basics. 

Next Steps to Success

Following outdated career management rules—loyalty to a single employer and hard work being rewarded with long-term job security—gives employers a stranglehold on your life, because you are focused on keeping a paycheck, often to the exclusion of a life outside of work.

The more business-like approach offered by the Me Inc. approach will deliver the knowledge to anticipate, avoid and, when necessary, navigate the rough waters we all travel over a long career.

Me Inc. is the framework for greater success, stability, fulfillment—a life lived on your terms.

In the fourth part of the series, Martin will discuss job security tactics.

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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