Me, Inc. Part 3: Owning Your Career in the New World of Work

We continue our Me, Inc. series about how to adapt to propel ahead and experience career growth in today’s rapidly changing career environment with the third installment. View Part 1 and Part 2.

How to Own Your Career

Too many people feel as though someone other than themselves is responsible for what happens in their career. But you’ll be sadly disappointed over the degree that others (including your employers) care about your future. Some workers are fortunate enough to have a genuinely caring manager who shows a sincere interest in their advancement and personal development, but those managers are the exception – not the rule. The reality today is that we all need to take ownership of our career growth, and career transition is just one of those components.

I recall visiting with Harald a couple of years ago when he was between assignments. He’s an IT professional who got tired of working for organizations that would hire him and then, a few months later, decide they no longer needed his help. He was being hired and managed as a temporary employee of sorts without any of the advantages. So he developed a strategy: “I decided I was better off focusing my efforts on becoming an IT contractor and began marketing myself through multiple IT contracting organizations. Now I have control over who I work for and how long I accept an assignment, and I’m less dependent on any one employer for my livelihood. And, I make an income premium of 30% more per hour for being a contract resource than I would make as a ‘permanent’ employee.”

Changing Your Mindset

The issue is who’s going to navigate your destiny. When I use terms like “take ownership,” “take control” or “navigate your destiny,” I’m obviously not referring to that spirit of independence many people have about being in charge of their own plans without regard for God’s will. What I mean is having the freedom to pursue the directions God has called you into without being compromised or stifled by employer expectations or feeling stuck in the status quo. Too many people let their career be guided by a company or a work culture rather than proactively seeking God’s will and maintaining the freedom to follow it. That’s the kind of control, or stewardship, God calls each of us to have.

In the first 10 years of my career, I can remember a couple of instances when I felt I wasn’t being treated fairly by my employer – perhaps disappointed that I wasn’t considered for a key promotion, or that my pay increase wasn’t adequate. It was easy to feel like a victim. Easy, that is, until I realized that nobody cares as much about my career and my success as I do. I went from the passive approach (”I hope they have my best interests at heart”) to the proactive approach (”I need to help make things happen”). That doesn’t mean you can force things to happen or that God isn’t ultimately guiding your career as you go throug a career transition. But we’re still required to be the best contributors we can possibly be in any role assigned to us. In fact, excellent work gives us the credibility to be proactive.

Getting Ahead in Your Career

The biggest leap I made personally was when a friend of mine, Bill Morganstern, challenged me to give myself “permission” to not think about myself as an employee, which I spent most of my career doing. Bill, who specializes in helping executives work through career transition issues (finding new work, starting a new business, transitioning to retirement, etc.), instead encouraged me to allow myself to consider alternative career paths – including my current career in the sales training and consulting business.

What about you? Are you an “employee” or are you Mary, Inc, who happens to work for your employer, for as long as it’s a symbiotic relationship? Drop me a line and let me know. I’m curious as to where you are in your career growth and career transition.

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