Are careers worth fighting for?


March 28th, 2012

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Are you sticking to your career plan or just thankful you have a job?  Scan your local bookshop and there will be plenty of reading around career planning revolving around setting a plan, identifying the steps and jobs needed to get there as well as the training and skills development that needed to be acquired.  There are plenty of examples of those who have climbed the ladder and reaped the rewards.  Simples!

Perhaps not. These days, jobs are hard to come by, competition for jobs is intense and power appears to lie with employers who can be choosy.  At the same time in organisations, flat structures mean progression is limited so once you have an organisational role; opportunities to grow can be difficult to find.  And in times of austerity it’s enough to do the day job without volunteering for extra responsibility or projects to give you the development you crave.

So if finding a job can be a struggle and opportunities to progress are difficult, is it realistic to have a career plan?  Are we as individuals responsible for our careers or should responsibility lie with our employers?

Wendy Hirsh, associate of Roffey Park, places responsibility on both, and thinks the business case for doing so is simple.  She points to Purcell’s AMO model (ability, motivation and opportunity)*, which suggests that business performance is dependent on the ability of those organisations to:

  • recruit the right people with the right ability
  • to motivate them
  • to provide them with the opportunities to use their skills at work

Career development is a factor that affects all of these, but if organisations have the pick of the bunch of candidates, why should they pay attention to career expectations?

Our own Management Agenda 2012 research found that managers who reported their career was on hold or felt insecure in their jobs tended to have lower engagement levels.   The same research also reported an increase in the number of managers feeling insecure in their jobs with only the most senior feeling confident of finding work elsewhere. High on the list of biggest issues and challenges faced by organisations with regards to their employees, were staff morale, succession planning and skills shortage.  At the same time, they need to control costs to survive the economic climate.

Organisations who take a more proactive approach to career development will be able to plug any skills shortage and develop their talent pipelines.  But this shouldn’t just be another option for the talented few as career development can be an option for everyone. Those leaders who are bold enough to hold career conversations with their staff, to understand what they want and where they want to get to as well as providing real support will not only see the benefits of higher engagement levels, but will also find that part of their role enjoyable and rewarding.

Listen to a recent podcast interview with Wendy Hirsh on the topic of career development.


* Bringing Policies to Life: the Role of front line managers by Sue Hutchinson and John Purcell.