Monday, May 5, 2008

Careers Are Like 401K's

An apt analogy can be made between career planning and financial planning.

The moment most people start working is usually the start of their financial planning. It’s thrust upon them by both the financial industry and the workplace in the form of 401K’s, IRA’s and other investment vehicles as a means of building long-term financial security.

But what about attaining long-term career security? Is it realistic and something that you can plan for?

Yes, it is.

In an age where the only form of job security is the ability to get another job, managing your career to ensure your future makes as much, if not more, sense than managing your finances. And at the least, it deserves an equal amount of your effort.

Yet, I've asked hundreds of executives how much time they actually spend each week managing their careers and most tell me virtually none. They do little networking, minimal self-promotion and rarely stay abreast of career opportunities.

The reason most give is that they’re too busy working and their job is too demanding. While they acknowledge the importance of managing their careers, they succumb to the pressures of time.

That's like saying they understand that building wealth is important, but they have no time for financial management because they're too busy earning money.

And while these leaders know that to achieve desirable business and financial outcomes, they need to analyze situations, set goals, initiate timely actions and provide ongoing attention, they don't apply these proven steps to their careers.

Instead, their careers are relegated to the "Hopes & Dreams" bucket.

After years of watching companies unceremoniously lay off employees, including their most senior executives, you would think that today's crop of top performers would be career savvy and prepared for any contingency. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case.

The way to look at it ...

Jobs and careers are not the same. Job success requires skilled performance. Career success requires skilled planning and management.

Just like your financial portfolio is comprised of individual investments, so too is your career portfolio comprised of individual jobs, whether with one company or many.

And just as a well-managed financial plan can lead to financial security, a smartly managed career plan is the path to career security.

Treat your career like you do your portfolio. Take appropriate actions, manage it wisely, be on the lookout for opportunities and continue to plan carefully.

Remember the B-school maxim: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

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