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Do companies really want us to self-manage our careers?

16 May 2016, by Lesley Vanleke
  • #Career Discovery Trajectory
  • #talent development

The other day I was giving a workshop on Self-Management in careers to a number of employees of a Belgian branch of a multi-national company. When I explained the career attitudes which allow individuals to manage their own careers, I was struck by a question of one of the attendees: “Do companies really want us to self-manage our careers?” 

In other words, this employee was not necessarily convinced that her company is open to a true negotiation when it comes down to the careers of its employees. She is probably not alone.

My answer to her question was a conditional one: “If your company has accepted the fact that the underlying career model to our career management practices has changed, it must consequently accept that careers have become a negotiation between employee and organization. You cannot negotiate with people who don’t know what they want, hence, for you to self-manage your career is a necessary condition.

There are plenty of arguments to say that the underlying career model has changed:

  1. Today, work is more about meaning than it was a couple of generations ago. It’s not only about earning a living but also about developing oneself as a professional and as a human being.
  2. There are no more scripts. People today experience incredible freedom in terms of career choices. For example, only three generations ago the profession of a father would influence the profession of the son: father worked in the mines, so would the son. Father is a solicitor, so would the son… Today, as a professional, I can start out in accounting in the banking sector and move on to fast movers consuming in a sales role if I wanted to. You could argue that careers have become three dimensional.
  3. Companies have to constantly adapt. They can no longer make promises for lifelong employment, nor can they offer individual employees clear career plans like they used to.

Where traditional careers were linear and two-dimensional, with a strong focus on loyalty and stability,  contemporary careers have become spiral-like: dynamic and three dimensional. The focus nowadays is on subjective career success or in other words career satisfaction. Therefore the individual has to deal with his or her career very consciously.

If you are an HR-professional you might want to consider these tips:

  1. Start communicating within the organization about the changing career model
  2. Develop career attitudes  within individuals through workshops or coaching sessions
  3. Make managers aware that self-management in the career is desired and help them coach their employees towards strong career attitudes.
  4. Take a critical look at HR policies which might counterwork the development of self-management

Careers have become dynamic, three-dimensional and unpredictable. Accepting this model has consequences for both individuals and organizations. Allowing employees to self-manage their careers and developing career attitudes is at the heart of it.

Contact us if you want to learn more about the Career Discovery Trajectory for integrating self-management in your company’s culture.


About the author

Lesley Vanleke

Lesley Vanleke holds over 20 years of experience in HR. In 2014 she co-founded TalentLogiQS, where she searches to understand all different aspects of customers’ challenges and needs. She strives to be a sounding board and bring about connections that deliver added value for all parties concerned.