Today’s Career Management is All About Relevance and Value

As many of my readers know, I teach a course called Managing Yourself and Your Career through Villanova’s Executive MBA program. In the first class of the semester, I talk to my students about career relevance. Recently, I had this same dialogue with a group of first-year associates at SEI.

Whenever I have this conversation, I suggest to the audience that they should focus on adding value in their career rather than focusing on being loyal to a single employer. Before my readers (and my colleagues) panic, I am not saying do not be loyal. I am challenging them to stay relevant so they continue to add value, and each person can live up to loyalty for the right reason. It is a critical tactic in managing your career.

Talkin’ Bout Their Generation

The generation entering the workforce now needs to be entrepreneurial. Traditional jobs and careers are not as prevalent as when I entered the accounting profession in 1988. Some will start businesses, others will get “side hustles” or “gigs” and find a way to make money and start a career. They won’t wait to fit into the traditional model, they’ll adapt a model that works for them and create opportunities through creativity and ingenuity.

So what does this have to do with leadership? Everything!

The idea of work and career is changing. The values and ideas of the worker are different now. The tools and technologies available to all of us are better now.

As leaders, if we want to attract the best talent and keep them engaged we need to understand what they want and need in work and their career. We need to appreciate what a career looks like in the 21st century.  And we need to approach this with a very open mind and an honest lens.

I’m getting ready to send my first born off to college in hopes of getting him educated, gainfully employed and “off my payroll.” But admittedly, I’m haunted by the idea of what his career could be. Reality has not yet set in for him on what lies ahead in about 4 years. Ultimately, his career path will be his choice, but regardless, I spend a lot of time reading about careers and the “gig economy.” I want to understand the mindset of today’s worker and the side benefit of that is helping my oldest navigate his employment.

Why a Career Path is Really a Career Portfolio

Recently I came across an HBR article that talked about career planning. The article, “Why You Should Have (at Least) Two Careers,” focuses on maintaining a portfolio of careers. I couldn’t agree more and I encourage everyone to read it. You may be thinking it’s like “cheating on someone.” I disagree. It is adding depth to yourself as an individual, your career and your employer. Handled correctly there are benefits to everyone.

I think you will enjoy the article and it may help you appreciate how people entering the workforce today think and act. With this understanding you may think of new and different ways to structure work, the office, recruitment and training.

One thing is certain – change in the workplace is happening and as leaders, we must adapt to accommodate. If we don’t, we risk losing talent to better opportunities that afford them greater career relevance.