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Published 05 July 2012 05:02, Updated 05 July 2012 06:09
Careers are a vexing thing. Many professionals and rising stars who enjoy early success, notching up impressive promotions and fancy titles, believe that their path to glory is assured. So long as they keep up the hard work and continue to demonstrate their competence, their betters will reward them with advancement and opportunity. Until one day it all goes quiet, save for the sound of crickets in the background.
Usually it’s only in retrospect that it becomes clear that once bright career prospects have turned to dust. Those once precious resumes now mock the 40- and 50-somethings who have so carefully crafted them over the years. As they follow the thread of their careers they cannot help but notice how the impressive string of promotions early in their careers winds its way ingloriously to a career rut. Or unemployment.
As hollow as the term “career management” may seem, there is something to it. Careers don’t just happen. They are built, promotion by promotion; fought for, schemed over and negotiated. Careers can be the fruits of astute alliances or the rewards of craven fealty but for the most part, career success is a function of self-promotion, self-aggrandisement and positioning. In a nutshell, it’s about blowing your own trumpet. All of which is to say that career advancement is not based on merit alone and very often not at all. The higher up the greasy pole, the more likely it is that you are staring at the shiny backside of someone who has been rewarded for all the wrong reasons.
If you consider this to be a harsh judgment, look around you. Or consider the titans who occupy the big desks upstairs. How many of these people deserve to be holding their position? Have they been rewarded for their technical, professional and leadership brilliance? Or is their most obvious attribute that they are brilliant at selling themselves?
Perhaps there was a time when application, results and talent were enough to attract the attention of senior managers and executives. Spotting and developing potential leaders was something that companies used to take seriously. Some still profess to do so but in a volatile economy and bloody-minded corporate sector in which the focus is on the short term, nurturing tomorrow’s leaders is not a high priority.
Don’t look back on your working life one day and find that your career has passed you by. Your career is your business. It’s something you have to plan, pursue and prosecute – right now.