Monday, August 24, 2009

Toward a National Career Development Strategy

I just attended a meeting in Chicago with a number of career development thought and practice leaders. We came together to begin the creation of a national career development strategy. Though we are just at the beginning of a year or longer process, we’ve already put down what we think are some guiding principles for such a strategy.

The first principle is that each of us is fully responsible for our career and work lives. This means, among other things, that we are the owners and drivers of our careers, that regardless of the state of the economy or our particular job, function or industry, we are responsible for actively managing our present and future work lives.

The second principle declares that life-long learning must be embedded in everyone’s work life. This means that each of us needs to have an active learning and development plan in place. Whether this is formal study, reading, observing others, utilizing a career coach, or the myriad other ways of developing ourselves, learning must be a part of how we work each day.

The third principle says that successful work lives happen with the on-going support of others around us. It means that no one achieves success alone and that support can come to us in a number of ways and forms, which may change depending on where we are in our work lives. This implies that there needs to be multiple layers and methods of support, training, coaching, offered willingly by workplaces, educational institutions, community based organizations, and all levels of government to assist people working toward their aspirations, whatever those might be.

A system that integrates responsibility, learning, and support means that everyone will be able to get and keep work over a life-time, and develop the skills necessary to stay employable for as long as they care to and are able to work. Many people have already built these principles into their work lives, but it might be a good time to take another look and to ask the following questions:

1. In what ways am I pro-actively managing my work life?

2. How do I make learning a part of my work day?

3. How am I building the support needed for my short and long term goals?

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman