Owning my career: how to take ownership and proactively manage your career

In today’s ever-changing world of work, taking ownership of your own career is vital in ensuring you enjoy a fulfilling professional life. But what does career ownership actually look like?

Career progression used to be about climbing the ladder; striving to move up the organisation into a more senior position. This has changed however, with matrix organisational structures – a lattice rather than a ladder – placing more emphasis on lateral moves: working in teams and on projects in order to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to develop. Career growth is about more than just promotion, with opportunities to grow in a variety of different directions.

Instead, we need to think more broadly about what development is and how we can collect diverse experiences to increase our exposure and build capabilities – a process that will be ongoing throughout our career and require us to take on different challenges, change our mindset and often operate outside of our comfort zone.

And while this may sound daunting, there are three simple steps that can help you take a more proactive approach to managing and future-proofing your career.

Three steps to owning your career

Looking inward: Step one is all about engaging in self-reflection and actively seeking feedback from others, whether that’s your team members, wider colleagues or line manager. Through doing so, you can assess your own strengths and identify what it is you want not only from your current role, but future opportunities as well. Feedback will then help you validate your perception of yourself and see things from a different perspective.

There will be chapters in your career where you felt fulfilled, and those where you felt dissatisfied, and it’s important to take the time to reflect on these chapters to understand why you felt that way, and what it was you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy during that specific moment in time. This insight will be crucial to helping you understand your values, drivers and motivators, and informing your future career decisions.

Some key questions we can all ask ourselves at this stage are:

  • What do I love to do?
  • What do I do best?
  • How do I bring value to the business?
  • How would others describe me?

Looking outward: The next step is to examine the environment around us and to gauge how aligned we are with it. Having reflected on your career to date, you’ll want to consider your organisation’s needs and expectations, and identify whether they’re aligned with whatever it is you’re seeking from your career. Think about what aspects of your role you enjoy – these are your interests – and then think about what you were doing during these times of enjoyment, to help you identify the skills and abilities you were using. Whenever our skills are aligned with our interests, that’s where we can identify our key strengths and begin to think about whether our organisation is providing us with the opportunities to do the things we’re good at. If so, it’s likely your skills and experience will already be positively contributing towards business performance, and you’ll be well positioned to achieve a sense of fulfillment from your career. If not, it may be time to initiate conversations internally to discuss opportunities to acquire any skills you need/want, or to move to another role that is more aligned with your personal aspirations.

Some key question to ask yourself are:

  • What is the current state of the organisation?
  • What direction is the business going in?
  • Does my current skillset meet the requirements of my role?
  • Am I likely to need to develop new skills in the near future as the organisation evolves?

Looking forward: The final step is to engage in forward-thinking and planning. With the rate at which the world of work is changing, many of us will need to pivot in order to futureproof our careers – whether that’s by acquiring new skills or changing roles. Career conversations and career coaching can be of immense benefit here. Career conversations are a chance for you work with your line manager to discuss your aspirations, identify development opportunities and explore the steps you could take to future-proof your career. Career coaching can then build on these conversations and help you create a robust career action plan that you can track progress against, ensuring you’re continuously moving forward in terms of professional development and achieving your career goals.

Key questions at this final stage could include:

  • What are my organisation’s strategic goals and priorities?
  • How can I acquire the skills and information needed to move forward?
  • How do I continuously adapt in the face of change?
  • What do I need to be successful in both my current and next role?

It’s important to note that these three steps aren’t a one-time thing. Taking ownership of our career is an ongoing process that we should be engaged with throughout our working lives; and with the rate at which technology is being integrated into the world of work, the need to manage and future-proof our careers has never been greater.

If you’d like to find out more about the exercises and activities you can utilise to support career ownership, as well as how your manager and organisation should be helping you, watch our latest on-demand webinar series: building internal mobility.