Who Needs Career Management?

Well, You Do If You Want to Protect Your Income & Brand

career management

What Is Career Management?

Navigating the labor market is difficult at the best of times, but without a roadmap, you're bound to make a wrong turn sooner or later. Proactive career management helps you to decide when, how, and why you need to stay or go in any particular position by mapping the road ahead, a bit like GPS.


Career management is the process of consciously directing your worklife. It is based on who you are: your values, skills, gifts, personality, brand, and career goals. When you take the time to craft a simple and flexible plan, it's like pressing on the gas of your car. This action propels your career forward toward your goals.

If you don't have a plan, it's like setting out on a long roadtrip without a map. You may still get to your desired destination, but it will almost certainly take you longer, cost more, and potentially rob you of a more rewarding journey.

Mini Case Study #1

The Challenge: Paulette had been in the same industry -- financial services sales -- for more than a decade. Although she was a natural leader, she remained in an individual contributor role because she had been unable to land a managerial role despite years of trying. She was bored to tears with her work, and couldn't land a leadership role, and kept changing jobs to keep her work life fresh. As a result, her work history was choppy and her resume and LinkedIn profile were a mess.

The Intervention: After designing her first career plan, we revamped her resume and LinkedIn profile to better present her career chronology and brand. We showcased her volunteer sports leadership roles in an effort to help her land a sales leadership job in sports equipment sales. With coaching on how to employ give-to-get networking techniques to penetrate target companies, Paulette landed multiple interviews.

The Result: Paulette received 2 job offers for sales leadership positions and ultimately accepted a managerial role in a sports-related industry. She had finally gained access to the career path she had desired for years and could look forward to leveraging her natural leadership strengths in a job that fits her to a "T."

Why Should You Care?

Without a career management plan ~ a simple but flexible outline of your goals, attributes, primary skills, experience, credentials, and brand ~ your career navigation will suffer greatly. While you might opt to embark on a cross-country vacation without a map or GPS system, your income and prospects will suffer if you attempt to manage your career in such a haphazard fashion. The only way to be sure you end up in the positions you want is to plot a smart course that will get you there.

A career management plan need not be complex or long. It simply needs to reflect you in all of your glory, which presumes, of course, that you know yourself well enough to put a few things down on paper. I hasten to add that some professionals need help with this step; fortunately that's what Career Coaches and Career Counselors do for a living. 

While you might opt to embark on a cross-country vacation without a map or GPS system, your income and prospects will suffer if you attempt to manage your career in such a haphazard fashion.

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Mini Case Study #2

The Challenge: Frank had worked at the same investment firm for close to 20 years. He loved his work, but felt he had risen as high as he could in the organization and executed all of his best ideas for them. In short, it was time for a change. But, he didn't have a resume, had only a bare-bones LinkedIn profile, and hadn't looked for a job in nearly 2 decades.

The Intervention: We crafted a career plan and resume from scratch for Frank, revamped his LinkedIn presence, and designed an executive networking tool for him known as a marketing brief. With coaching on how to use the latter, he networked his way into multiple target companies. 

The Result: Discussions led to offers and he accepted a position in a start-up firm that offered him the kind of challenges he had faced earlier in his work life, but could now solve with a much stronger skill set.

How Do You Create One?

To craft a career plan of your own, begin with this 4-step self-reflection process. While a thorough career management plan involves a bit more, this process will give your DIY effort a good start.

  • Identify Your Motivated Skills: What are your strongest skills, the ones you use most in your work AND most enjoy using? You possess hundreds of skills, but the ones you want to hone in on are your transferable or universal skills ~ those capabilities that will transfer to a wide variety of industries and employers. Aim to identify your Top 10 transferable skills and then rank order them according to your preferences.
  • Flush Out Your Preferred Career Targets: Next, consider your career aspirations. What types of work do you see yourself doing in 5, 10, or 20 years? Jot down those aspirational titles, along with a selection of companies for which you would like to work one day. In addition, determine your geographic preferences, salary needs, and ideal lifestyle and work environment characteristics.
  • Clarify Your Career Values: Turn your attention to your strongest values ... those aspects of your work life that you treasure the most. From challenges and authority to creativity and professionalism, your values can be discerned in a number of ways. Career assessments can help, but a very simple DIY option is to sift through your checkbook, bank accounts, and credit card statements for the last 2 months. What kinds of things have you spent your money on? Whether groceries, restaurant meals, or hobbies, the pattern of your expenditures will help focus your attention on those things that matter most to you. Shape this list into another Top 10 list, also rank-ordered.
  • Develop Your Why-Buy-ROI: Armed with all of the above, your next task is to reflect on your career achievements and successes to date. Why should your next employer hire you? Consider this carefully and boil it down to a brief statement. Add to your statement the sum total of your quantifiable achievements thus far in your work life. Blend these 2 statements into one unified commentary on your career brand.

What Should You Do With It?

Once you have your career plan in hand, there are a number of ways you can leverage it to help you navigate your work opportunities.

  • Make Effective Career Decisions: Every time you approach a decision point in your work life ~ whether to stay or go, whether to interview or not, whether to volunteer for a committee or not ~ your career plan can keep you on the straight and narrow. It will help you to remember what's important to you and will in effect create a decision-making checklist for your efforts.
  • Strategize Your Next Promotion or Job Search: Before you decide to embark on a promotion or job hunt, your career plan will not only undergird your search strategies but will shape your resume, LinkedIn, cover letter, and executive bio or marketing brief content. This is vital. Without such a plan, your career transitions are more likely to be weak or ineffective.
  • Evaluate Job Offers: A career plan gives you a clear structure for determining whether a job offer will match your values, leverage your experience, credentials, and skills, and satisfy your lifestyle and work environment criteria. 
  • Assess Possible Educational Investments: If you ever plan to pursue additional education or certifications, your career plan will help you decide if the investment is worth the time or money and aligns with your long-term aspirations.

If you're not currently experiencing the satisfaction and rewards you want from your work life, it may be time to take a more proactive approach to your career management. Try this DIY approach first, but if you run into problems, it may be time to consult a Career Coach. In that case, stop by my calendar to schedule a complimentary career planning call.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.