Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

DIY blues

Too many people sit and wait for life and career to happen

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While the cold, numbing temperatures have been a hot topic in the news lately, another most talked about item is the recent CIBC survey on the financial priorities of Canadians. According to the poll conducted by Harris/Decima, 16 per cent of survey respondents planned to focus on paying down their debt while 11 per cent were planning to focus on building up their savings. However, as CIBC executive vice-president Christina Kramer acknowledged, many people struggle to make progress with their financial goals. This might well be caused by the fact fewer than 47 per cent of survey participants had met with a financial adviser over the past year. In other words, most people seem to be using a "do-it-yourself" approach to personal financial management.

Yet, I can suggest most people also take the "do-it-yourself" approach to career management, and in many cases, neglect their career altogether. Sure, people develop a plan to get a university or college degree, a professional designation and/or move into the technical trades, however once this first key goal is met, it seems the concept of career management rarely enters their minds again. Instead, I believe most individuals settle into their first job and then sit and wait for life and career to happen.

In my experience as a career specialist, I often find those individuals who simply wait in line for career opportunities to come their way fail to ensure their educational credentials meet changing standards. For instance, they brush off internal training courses offered by their employer and also refuse to attend advanced college or university courses unless funded by the company. For some reason, taking personal responsibility for learning is simply not part of their genetic code.

I believe this type of individual also fails to see the connection between education and the ability to increase one's earnings. Too bad, because one day they'll find themselves out of work with outdated educational credentials that will hinder their being re-employed at the level to which they've been accustomed. In other words, at some point in the future, these individuals will suffer from both financial as well as "career" debt.

With our world of work changing so quickly, I can only urge readers to take responsibility for managing their career and personal future throughout their lifetime. Ignoring career planning will only lead to more complex challenges down the road. So, what can be done to manage one's career? Thankfully, there are plenty of both short- and long-term strategies involving formal and informal learning. The following tips should spark some creative thinking.

-- Watch for trends: Every industry sector is impacted by trends, be it economic, social, technological or political. Just look around you and observe what's happening to your colleagues and/or your competitors. Is there growth, layoffs or status quo? What's going on with your employer and how will this impact you? Are you ready?

-- Get in the know: Join a professional association and, if already a member, start to attend meetings and events. Network with others and get to know what's going on in your industry. Explore your profession on the Internet, check various websites to determine job activity, scan the government sites for predictions on current and future labour requirements. Finally, become a voracious reader and get in the know.

-- Set some career goals: Setting goals can be as simple as planning to read a professional book every month or learning something new about your company right up to returning to formal education. Be realistic and be sure to balance all of life's requirements such as time, money, work and family. Keep in mind slow and steady wins the race.

-- Take advantage of courses: The only job security you'll ever have is your skill set and it is critical your skills are current. Take advantage of courses offered by your company; this not only ensures skill currency, but lets the employer know you are actively participating in their future direction as well as your own. Choose courses that will broaden and enhance your skill set.

-- Seek out opportunities: Make yourself as valuable to the employer as you can. Do this by taking on challenging stretch assignments and/or new roles within the company, offering to steer a special project or being an active member on a special committee. Each new experience creates new learning and new skill development.

-- Build an active network: I find once people find a job, they often tend to hibernate, connecting with associates only when they are back on the job market. This is a big career mistake! If you want to protect your career, you not only need to be active in your network, you need to continue to build that network. Your network is where you will find out information, be alerted to opportunities and areas of risk. The network is where your friends will be in times of need. The network will be your key to finding another job.

-- Finish that degree: Life may have got in the way and you left a degree unfinished. Now is the time to finish it and/or transfer credits to another program that interests you today. Many universities will allow mature students to enter a graduate program even if the undergraduate is incomplete. With life work experience behind you, this is a good option to explore.

-- Enjoy a hobby: Part of career success is enjoying life/work balance so you are not stressed and can return to work each day refreshed. Job burnout is a career killer. Find a hobby or join a social group. After all, there are a multitude of activities for every area of interest so there is really no excuse.

-- Learn to accept and manage change: Like it or not, our world of work is changing and changing fast. If you fail to change along with this, you'll get left behind. Assess your own ability to change, identify your personal resistors and find specific tactics to overcome them. Remember, stubborn resistance is a career killer.

Your goal is to set yourself up for long-term success. This goes beyond setting a specific career goal to "be this or that." Rather, in my view, it means paying attention to life around you every single day and then consciously making personal career adjustments that will ensure job security and career longevity.


-- source: Paying down debt still Canadians top financial priority: The Canadian Press, Jan 3, 2014.


Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 H1

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