The HR Edge: Career planning....shaping your future

by 08 Jul 2009

Career planning with senior executives has been the focus of my work over the past few months.

Seems that the GFC (that's a three letter acronym for the Global Financial Crisis----and rhymes with KFC) has made more than a few C-suite inhabitants think very carefully about what they want to do and where they are going in the next 10 to 15 years.

In days of old, when there was a war for talent, these same folk paid little attention to a focused and rigourous approach to shaping and managing their own careers. The economic waves of success easily carried many of them to higher level roles.

Now, though, times are tight. High profile roles are not as plentiful and competition is strong for what exists.

Hence the calls to me to deliver heavy duty, practical career planning guidance and requests for coaching in career management.

Mind you, I've had a few people say to me that with the pace of engagement, anything can happen and they often put career planning into the 'too hard' basket. They convince themselves that it is not worth planning too far ahead. Yeah, right! I'll admit it is important to remain responsive to unfolding events, but medium to long-term career goals provide a vital reference point by which to steer in uncertain times.  Plan for nothing and you'll get nothing.

Career planning is not all that hard, but it is time consuming if you want to gain the maximum out of the process. Many people do it when they have suffered some set-back at work, been overlooked for promotion, made redundant and such like. In other words, when some burning platform has singed their feet and galvanised them into action.

It's my experience, though, that the best career planning is done when someone is fully engaged in their role and achieving great results. Because it's then that people are more likely to take a broad perspective of their talent, be more open to risk and feedback, and are more likely to acknowledge development needs.

For example, questions I pose to clients, on a 10 to 15 year time horizon, include:

  • What will the business world be like?
  • What will my organisation look like?
  • How are organisations being reshaped by local, regional and global events?
  • Is my job something that can be easily outsourced by my organisation?
  • How will people communicate?
  • How will technology impact what I do?
  • How will technology impact my industry, my organisation and my skills?
  • What organisation structure(s) will exist
  • What skills will be more and less valued?

Of course, a comprehensive career plan does not rest on these questions alone. There's much more in-depth thinking to be undertaken.

The best I've seen written about why career planning is so crucial comes from former Intel CEO Andy Groves. He said:

"The sad news is, nobody owes you a career. Your career is literally your business. You own it as a sole proprietor. You have one employee: yourself. You are in competition with millions of other employees all over the world. You need to accept ownership of your career, your skills and the timing of your moves. It is your responsibility to protect this personal business of yours from harm and to position it to benefit from the changes in the environment. Nobody else can do that for you."

Now if that does not galvanise you into action, nothing will.

About the author

David Burrell is a director of LDKS Consulting, which helps HR professionals achieve their goals quicker. He has also held HR director roles in Australasia, Europe, Latin America and Asia. For more information email or phone (02) 9528 4993