How to Make the “Own Your Career” Mantra Viable


Owning our own careers has long served as a rallying cry — echoing down the halls of organizations worldwide. Indeed, individuals should be empowered to take the helm of their own ship. However, we must acknowledge the needed elements required for this to work. These vital elements serve to “inform” the process; capturing contributor qualifications, communicating possible roles and describing organizational initiatives.

Organizations vary in their ability to support the process. Yet, these elements could help complete the career puzzle facing contributors. (As organizations increase in size, the challenge to deliver these elements can become increasingly difficult.) Organizations are becoming cognizant of the issue — and realize that employees are stymied to handle the challenge on their own. However, managers are often not in a position to help and supporting systems aren’t able to accommodate the load.

While “owning your own career” is a formidable tag line, it remains wrought with problems. Respectfully — the dynamic relies on more than self-knowledge, motivation and “exuding positive energy“.

The truth is this: contributors are often left alone to fight the battle.

Here are a few of the issues we should consider:

  • Time. With the dizzying pace of career life, committing quality time to plan next steps can be difficult. This leaves many of us without time to reflect on where we’d like to land and how we should evolve to really get there (knowing our weaknesses is vital). In fact as our careers progress, there may be less and less discussion of career vision. Moreover, this process cannot be completed in a vacuum. We should be actively discussing our career vision with people that can offer guidance — beyond our own managers.
  • Internal information. If the general goal is to have talent freely flowing toward organizational needs & goals — the quality of outbound communication concerning these topics becomes critical. This includes the information available internally concerning roles, team opportunities and initiatives that have been launched. However, if employees are left with an informational void, none of this works. Sadly, many contributors leave for external opportunities (even for a lateral move).
  • Capturing how contributors evolve. To match skills with roles, we have to do a better job of documenting how employees are evolving. This includes not only training & experience gained in-house, but evolving interests and personal career goals. In this case, the contributor is the expert that must be involved — and we must somehow collect this information.
  • The role of HR technology. We cannot address either of the above issues without talking about technology solutions. Platforms that have the ability to collect, track and share this information are vital. Although the landscape of HR tech applications is expansive — it is unclear if they handle all of these challenges simultaneously. (Ultimately, consolidation may be the solution). Elements that would prove useful include useful recommendations for training, future team memberships, internal mentors/sponsors and flexible internal postings. (Platforms such as Jostle for example are building the ability to lend a hand.)

Has your organization struggled with career development? Have you found solutions? Share them here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz, The World Economic Forum and The Huffington Post.



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