One of the aspects of working life that has changed dramatically in the last several decades
is the path to career success. Good careers were once defined by earning increasing compensation, achieving successive promotions, accruing long tenure in an organization, and being awarded a lovely parting gift on retirement. These days, a successful career is defined differently, and it’s often idiosyncratic. So it’s important to be careful what you wish for.
In the “great resignation” hundreds of thousands of employees have rejected customary recommendations regarding career success and opted to leave jobs that weren’t meeting their broader needs. People are recognizing that conventional characteristics of a “good job” leave a lot of important criteria off the list. What people want from their careers is changing.
The office of Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently issued a framework for workplace health and well-being that described five essential elements that employees need: protection from harm, connection and community, work-life harmony, mattering at work, and opportunity for growth, all based on worker voice and equity. Simply put, a paycheck is not enough; people spend a significant part of their lives engaged in work, and their work is part of the picture when building a full and thriving life.
These recommendations align with a recent career development study by Julie Winkle Giulioni (documented in her 2022 book, Promotions are SO Yesterday). Her research found that moving up holds less appeal than other growth avenues or potential benefits from working life. Giulioni, too, documented that people were looking for purpose, development of expertise, relationships, challenge, autonomy, and joy among other things – and that climbing the ladder ranked much further down on the list than might have been seen in the past. (In fact, it ranked last for all age groups except those early in their careers, and even then, it was near the bottom.)
Modern career planning drops old assumptions and explores more variables and a wider range of possibilities.
What Learning & Development folks are looking for in their careers
The list of job characteristics to consider when exploring career moves is long, and no job will tick off all the boxes. It’s worth the effort to step back and explore what YOU expect from your job. Here are some of the items that others have said they wish for from work:
- A deep sense of purpose and meaning in their work
- The opportunity to advance a dear cause
- A role that allows them to do what they are good at
- Active support for constantly developing knowledge and skills
- A feeling of confidence, satisfaction, and joy in work
- The opportunity for increasing job responsibilities and compensation
- The opportunity to make and cultivate relationships
- To have collaborators, like-minded colleagues, and friends at work
- To feel challenged, to work difficult problems
- To be able to exercise a degree of autonomy, flexibility, or control
- To be on a clear path for advancement through promotions or new positions
- To have a mentor or developmental supervisor as an interested advisor and coach
- The ability to work from home – or from anywhere
- To be managed by someone who is competent and supportive
- The opportunity to explore new frontiers, to follow curiosities
- And more…
As you consider your next career move, take the time to explore what you really want. Too often, people go for role or salary advancement opportunities without considering the cost to their autonomy, or their ability to apply expertise, or their time commitments, or their lifestyle outside of work. People launch freelance careers without accounting for what it takes to get an entrepreneurial business off the ground. Or they allow others to guide their career path. Or they make decisions based on fixing the problems they found in previous jobs rather than considering all their wants and needs. Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.
How to assess L&D career opportunities and determine your next steps
It’s useful to regularly take stock of your career and make new goals and plans. Here are some questions for you to ponder (perhaps in a personal retreat focused on your career):
- Assess your satisfaction with your current role and responsibilities. Are you doing work you enjoy? Are you making contributions about which you can be proud? Are you using the skills you want to be using? To what degree is your current role and career trajectory a good place for you to be?
- Analyze industry trends and their impacts to your job security and the nature of your work. How will your job be changing in the future and how do you feel about that? What industry trends offer opportunities you’d like to explore?
- Consider career moves and determine desired direction. What do you want to be doing in the future? What other roles appeal to you? What would you do if there were no barriers? What are the implications of the career changes you might consider making? What steps may need to be taken to make these changes a reality?
- Evaluate your current skill set and most appealing opportunities for development. What are your strengths? What areas of expertise fascinate you and make you want to dive deeper? What skills are necessary for the evolving future or for desired career moves?
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- Ponder your relationships at work and what relationships you might want to find, change, or develop further. Who are your closest colleagues? What relationships do you want to nurture? To what degree are you making deep connections within your “tribe” – the people with whom you work, who share your interests, who challenge you to do your best? How can you expand your network or deepen your relationships?
- Consider the bigger picture around lifestyle and life goals. What is important to you aside from your work? How do you want to be spending your non-work time? What are your financial goals and to what degree are you making progress toward them? What will enable you to achieve your goals for yourself and your family?
These questions and others you might pose for yourself can help you to know what you need to do to achieve your own version of career success. Having carefully thought about what you wish for, you can make concrete plans to get from here to there. Dream big!