Intentional Career Management – not just for the chosen few!

by Edward Henkler on November 5, 2013

In the wake of another round of layoffs, I’m reminded that senior leaders often have their next employer picked out before voluntarily or involuntarily losing their current position.  Perhaps strategic planning and aggressive career management are some of the seeds of their success but the vast majority of people do not practice what a good friend recently called volitional career progression.  In layman’s terms, that’s intentional and planned career movement.  Rick McKnight’s book, “Victim, Survivor, or Navigator” refers to most of us as victims or possibly, survivors.  The senior leaders I mentioned at the outset are in the third category.  They are intentionally navigating their career, identifying and executing the next logical step which will help them realize their dreams.

Victim, Survivor, or Navigator (Rick McKnight)

It would be nice if everyone began intentionally managing their careers but that probably assumes too much self-direction.  This is not intended harshly; only to suggest that most folks are happier being directed, rather than leading.  Intentional career management is not easy, especially with all of the other demands on our time.  This brings me back to one of my favorite books, “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly.  In this book, Matthew suggests that employers need to care just as much about their employees’ dreams as they expect those employees to care about the business.  The Dream Manager is an actual role, combining financial and strategic planning.  Employees voluntarily meet with the company Dream Manager to discuss their aspirations and then create realistic plans to achieve them.  It’s a marvelous concept and companies that are embracing the concept are building an employee base that will always be loyal, regardless of where their careers lead.


Lifetime employment at one company is increasingly unlikely but what if a consortium of companies, with complementary activities, agreed to proactively manage career progression such that employees could seamlessly move between companies in the consortia as their career progressed?  The previous ideal was to have an employee work through many of the critical company functions as they moved into senior leadership.  A great ideal but how much more knowledgeable would that senior leader be if they moved between industries and company size, from startup through large cap?  Proactively managing your employees’ careers would improve retention (across the consortium) and more effectively manage transition.  Side benefits could include a cross-industry CEO roundtable, other peer networking groups, and might even provide an outlet for individuals who wanted a flexible and/or part time schedule.

Dare to dream….

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