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Are You Career-Minded?

Monday 19 November 2012 by Gina Le Prevost

I'm an Executive Search Consultant and as such, I spend about a third of my time searching for well-qualified people to match my clients' vacancies.  Another third of my time is spent with those clients, learning about their organizations in order to develop as deep an understanding about their corporate culture as possible.  The final third is spent counselingandadvising people whoarelooking forwork- whether currently employed, the product of a redundancy or have experienced other job loss. 

Over the ten years I've been in the business I've made some interesting observations.  Among them is this one:  the "Psychological Contract" has changed!  The Psychological Contact is a well-known theory in HR management that describes the unwritten agreement or commitment between employer and employee. According to Wikipedia, "apsychological contractrepresents the mutual beliefs, perceptions, and informal obligations between an employer and an employee. It sets the dynamics for the relationship and defines the detailed practicality of the work to be done. During the recruitment process, the employer and interviewee will discuss what they each can offer in the prospective relationship. If agreement is reached, most employers will impose a standard form contract, leaving the detail of the employee's duties to be clarified "on the job". But some of the initial statements, no matter how informal and imprecise, may later be remembered as promises and give rise to expectations."

But things are changing.  I tell candidates that generations ago, we were accustomed to having schools, government,andour employersplanout our livesandlookout for our best interests. These assumptions were so pervasive in society that skepticsandparanoids began echoing the Orwellian decree, "Big Brother is watching you!"

Well, nowadays, not only is Big Brother not watching you, he's quite preoccupied with his own problems!

Employers used to plan career paths for their employees, providing them with training and development opportunities and focusing on promoting from within. Up until the late 1980s, loyalty was the best attribute an employee could offer in addition to a strong skill set. It wasn't unusual for a person to spend 20 or 30 years, or even their whole career with the same company.

But we now live in an age where society expects us to take much more responsibility for our own lives than ever before. This is why you must train yourself to be a career-minded person: someone who's constantly evaluating their current job situation against their career goals; someone who's en route to meeting their career objectives by making mid-course adjustments along the way. Being career-minded is not a mindset; it's a way of life.

As a recruiter, it's my job to evaluate people to see if they're right for the roles my clients ask me to fill. I interview between 500 and 750 people a year, so I have a great perspective on the candidate marketplace. Many of the people I meet have the qualifications my clients are asking for, but they hire me to give them more than that. They want potential superstars: people who will fit the culture of the organization; people who are always thinking about success - people who are career-minded.

Here are four easy ways to become a more career-minded person:

1. Take responsibility for your own career by having a plan.

If you don't know where you're going, you're never going to get there. Career-minded people have an idea of what they'd like to be doing or where they'd like to be professionally five years from now. Setting goals today helps you figure out what you ought to be doing tomorrow to achieve them. Review your career history to determine what's missing from your personal portfolio to be qualified for the job you want in the future.

2. Maintain the "always-on" job search.

Career-minded people always think about winning their next role. This doesn't mean you're distracted in your current job or disloyal to your current employer, but you've got to constantly assess the value of the work you're doing in terms of its ability to prepare you for bigger and better things in the workplace. Question whether your current job is taking you in the right direction, or if it's taking you towards a dead end. Also, keep your CV up-to-date and circulate it to people for their feedback. Your goal is to remain top-of-mind whenever a lucrative job opportunity comes along.

3. Work with recruiters to manage your career.

Career-minded people will work with a few well-chosen recruiters. They're the ones who will take interest in your plans and be your best long-term career allies. Select recruiters that specialize in your specific job market and are interested in developing long-term relationships with the best prospective candidates in their field of expertise. Most recruiters are "mandate driven," and the faster they can fill roles assigned by their clients, the better. So, sit down with them and market yourself beyond your CV - they know a candidate's CV only tells half the story, anyway. Be candid about your professional goals and objectives, too. This way, recruiters can recommend you to clients for roles consistent with your long-term plans.

Also, touch base with your recruiter regularly. Let them know when you move homes or change jobs so they always have your latest contact information. Call them when you're considering a new job offer or a promotion and use them as a sounding board to confirm that the move is consistent with your plan.

4. Engage in "CONTEXTUAL" networking.

Whether it's through industry associations, volunteer board commitments, or social events, networking is the best way for career-minded people to get engaged with their business community and initiate mutually beneficial relationships with their peers. The advantages of networking are endless, and go beyond simply meeting new people and passing out your business card. For example, networking events are a way to learn about other people's success: how did they get where they are now, and what was their career strategy? They're also a way for you to rub shoulders with potential employers and make lasting impressions on decision-makers in your field. After all, some of the best jobs are obtained through positive referrals from people you meet at networking events.

Gone are the days where you could rely on other people to map out your career for you. Now, it's all about strategically planning your own professional future and packaging yourself as a career-minded individual with tangible and desirable skills on the job market. After all, this is your career: you own it, you shape it, and only you can control it.

Forget Big Brother. It's time for you to make your own breaks!

This article was written by Hugh Munro, Former Manager, AP Executive, Jersey