Thursday, 18 September 2008

Looking back, around and ahead

We all want something different from our careers. Some prize the creation of wealth above everything else, others are satisfied by the security that comes with a profession or trade. More still work for necessity or view their careers as a means to an end, whether that end is providing for their family or financing next year's holiday.

The individual aims for our careers are further complicated because for most of us they change with the changing circumstances of our lives. For example, when you got your first job you might have been single, after 10 years you might be in a relationship, possibly married. After 25 years at work, whatever your partnership status, your motivations and needs are likely to be different again. A multitude of events and factors, either at home or at work, contribute to this change. Change that every individual needs to respond to and manage if their career is to deliver personal success.

This blog started with a challenge to the way we manage our careers. The intention of that challenge wasn't to provide all of the answers, it was to try to understand if a better way existed to deliver success from our working lives. I'm not a professional writer and sometimes I don't think I have done this subject justice but I have continued the challenge, learning from my mistakes along the way.

Looking back over this blog (the other career related blogs and the opinions and experiences of the people I have encountered along the way) there is more evidence today to suggest that independent, forward-looking career leadership is not only possible, but also within the reach of more people now than any time previously. The moment anyone has a decision or choice related to work (e.g. Which company do I join? What skills should I learn? or What do I want from my next year at work?) they also have the opportunity to make that choice alongside a preference for where it might lead their future career.

The best and simplest method of ensuring that the decisions we make today are connected to what we would like from the future, lies with an understanding of our individual values, talents and goals. Asking three simple questions, "What is important to me?", "What am I good at?" and "What do I want more of?", brings values, talents and goals and our relationship with work into view. As this understanding develops, for the first time decisions can be made in a context that looks beyond immediate factors and needs. A connection between the decisions we make today the opportunity they create for our careers in the future.

Although supporting evidence has grown, this conversation needs to face new challenges today if it is to deliver value to anyone else in the future. Its future relies on the ability to make a difference to individual careers and that future was never in the hands of this blog. To use a personal example, a great deal has changed in my own career since this blog started but responding to this change and continuing in a direction that makes sense for my career is down to an understanding of my values, talents and goals and what they define as my personal success.

There is some risk to considering this conversation in your own career decision making but if this blog has achieved anything to date, it is demonstrating the rewards for doing so.

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