In my career coaching practice, I often find myself telling clients that they need to pursue two parallel paths in order to achieve career success and satisfaction. They inevitably ask, “You mean I have to work in two different careers at the same time?” No, that’s not what I mean.
Here are the parallel paths I’m talking about:
- Whatever job you happen to have now, do it and do it well. Give it your all. Contribute your best skills. Make a real difference for the company. Manage your job like a real professional.
- You need to manage your career like a real professional too. Your career needs to be thought about, planned and implemented over time. You need to continue evolving and enhancing your credentials. You need to continually grow your network, improve your skills, increase your visibility and credibility, and prepare for the next position.
It’s not enough to get hired, “put your head down” and just do your job. You’ve got to pick your head up and be attuned to the business culture around you. You also need to “keep your eyes and ears open” for new opportunities.
This is a type of “compartmentalization.” In this case, you divide your work-brain into two sections – section one is focused on doing great work in your job, and section two is concurrently building your career and looking for your next role. Is this “disloyal” to the current employer, as some of my clients have asked? No, I don’t think so. Loyalty is a wonderful trait – but it should be reserved for family members, close friends and beloved pets. After all, employers these days don’t hesitate to lay-off workers when they want to cut costs or “increase shareholder value.” So, where’s the employer’s loyalty? Besides, as I mentioned above, you always do your best work and provide value to the company you’re working for at any given time.
Once I convince clients that they need to pursue these two parallel paths, they will often ask, “But how long will I have to do this?” The answer, of course, is “Forever!” Career management is not something you only do temporarily or intermittently. You don’t only work on career management when you’re between jobs. Indeed, to create and sustain a great career, you must continue practicing career management for the duration of your working life.
It has been said that “the company owns your job, but you own your career.” The most savvy, successful people know this, and they always act accordingly. Here’s a question for you: If you’re not managing your career, who is? Your boss? Your human resources manager? A recruiter? Nope. Not even your Career Coach. The only person who is responsible for managing your career is you. This requires taking full responsibility, and you’ll need to adapt and shift course along the way.
Even in the best of work circumstances, you don’t have one job – you have two. Just as a train runs on two tracks, your career will go farther and faster if you consistently pursue the two parallel paths outlined above. In my opinion, that’s what it takes to achieve your career potential in today’s work-world.
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