Career Self-Management

There’s no map to help you navigate through the world of work. What’s more, change is rife and new types of work keep springing into existence. And that’s happening at an ever increasing rate. The future of the world of work is unpredictable. There’s no ready-made satnav to guide your career. Is there?

A lot of people pay scant attention to the future of their careers. They bide their time. Sometimes doing something different crosses their minds, but they don’t act on those thoughts. Which is understandable, as career self-management is tricky and we’re powerless in the face of economic developments. But the risk we run by biding our time is that we might end up being sidelined. It’s a fact that people who practise career self-management have significantly higher chances of success and satisfaction in their careers. But what is career self-management? And how do you practise it?

What is career autonomy?

Career self-management means having a sense of direction in your career. It’s like having an internal compass. You know what’s truly important to you and you steer your career accordingly. This doesn't mean you’re inflexible. On the contrary, you’re capable of adapting to new opportunities and unexpected developments. You enjoy learning new things.

In order to be able to do all this, you need to get to know yourself and the world of work as well as you possibly can. What’s more, you have to be bold enough and capable enough to make decisions. This is no mean feat. Most people find it rather difficult, because we haven’t learned much about these kinds of thing. Which is why a lot of people could do with a bit of help, e.g. from a coach or career advisor. Incentives from your boss and facilities from your employer can also be a tremendous help.

How do you steer your career autonomously?

In concrete terms, what do you need to learn in order to be able to steer your career autonomously? The first point is to be curious about yourself. What exactly are you good at and not quite so good at? What are you capable of developing and what would you like to develop? What do you really enjoy and what are your motives? Tests are a good tool to learn about yourself. They provide objective information. Tests enable you to compare yourself with others. Test results are based on psychology and will help you to think about yourself.

Avoid ruminating, however. It’s at least as important to observe yourself and the responses you get with an open mind. Not only in familiar situations but precisely in new situations as well. This entails you combining your learning about the world and your learning about yourself. Hence being curious about what’s going on in the world is extremely good for your career development. This could include going into another department or another company and asking questions there. Or getting chatting with people from different professions, sectors or even other countries.

Most people who get to know more about themselves and the world in this way gain an increasingly clear idea as to where they want to be heading. The final thing required, then, is the courage to actually go and do what it is you want to do. The reward being a life in which your work gives you enjoyment and fulfilment.

Author of the above:
Tom Luken,
researcher and advisor on career matters