Career Management in the 21st Century

August 5, 2019

The definition of work has changed. Are we changing with it?

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that a new crop of associates joined SEI. I recently had an opportunity to talk to them about career management in the 21st century. It’s a topic that I am truly passionate about. So much so, I teach a course I designed for Villanova’s Executive MBA program called “Managing Yourself and Your Career.”

Simply put – a person’s career is not about a company, it’s about the individual.

I began my conversation by asking them what questions they had about their careers. I have to be honest; their questions were not what I was expecting:

  • Can your passion be a job?
  • How do you consider opportunity cost in your career?
  • Did you have a plan for your career or did you let it flow?
  • How do you set your career expectations and balance patience in a career?

They were clearly a group of candid, thoughtful and reflective individuals. I can’t say I approached my own career that maturely at the beginning of it. I was not that deep when I left college. (Truth be told, I just wanted a paycheck.)

Times have changed, and I call that progress. In fact, the very definition of work is changing and changing rapidly.

It's a journeyPB-US-blog-career-management

The digital revolution changed the way we live, work and relate, and as a result, it’s going to change the nature of careers and the questions and concerns of those trying to manage their careers. Consider this:  There are billion-dollar businesses that did not exist a decade ago, and therefore there are jobs that just materialized in the last 10 years: podcast manager, social media manager, YouTuber, Uber driver, etc. We are literally living in the age of “if you can dream it, you can be it.”

Building a career is a journey and not one that can be easily planned. This has never been more true, but also never more exciting when you consider all of the possibilities. That said, it can feel overwhelming, and not just at the beginning of your career. Everyone’s career has ebbs and flows and points when we feel stuck. However, there are important aspects to building and maintaining a career that I have found helpful in managing professional and personal growth over time.

  • Launching: You have passed the first milestone in your career – you launched it by starting your first job. Remember, that first job can teach you just as much about what you don’t want to do, as what you *want* to do. Look for self-discovery in every opportunity.
  • Designing: Build a life you want, not just a job. Think about putting your life at the center of your plan. Think about the integration of work, community and family. What does success in life look like to YOU – not your neighbor or your 5,000 Instagram followers, but you. Design for the future that will make you most happy.
  • Owning: Responsibility for a career is personal. The company you work for is a facilitator of your career. They don’t own it – you do. It is your obligation and privilege to direct and steer it.
  • Building: When you build a career, it is not about a single job, it is about the attainment of skills and capabilities. You need to build skills that are relevant and valuable in society.
  • Exploring: Take chances and risks. Volunteer for things inside and outside of work. Consider lateral moves, as well as projects that may seem “beneath” you. Experiences are a gift and each and every one will teach you something you didn’t know before, while adding to your personal value proposition. As you explore, stay in contact with the world; not just your company.
  • Learning: Learning must be a lifelong pursuit. The speed of change is so rapid that skills lose their relevance more quickly than they did in the past. The disruption of technology is not just the automation of jobs, it also is impacting knowledge work.
  • Reflecting: This is the secret ingredient to self-awareness. And self-awareness is key to individual growth. Reflect not just about changes in society, but changes in you and your life experiences. As your life progresses, your personal and professional goals are likely to change and that’s ok. But take the time to think about what that means to you. Understand who you are and what makes you tick. Knowing who you are leads to a confidence that will help propel you and your career forward.

To my new colleagues: Welcome to SEI and thanks for choosing us. I look forward to seeing what you pursue and the impact you make – not just here, but in life. Remember it is ok not to know, but it is not ok not to engage. Best of luck as you start the next stage of your journey!

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