The Annual Career Check-Up

    March 31, 2003

As we are all aware, technical innovations, the globalization of the marketplace, increased competition and demands from consumers have all contributed to the necessity for flexibility and focus in meeting the needs of the rapidly changing, fast-paced workplace. Terms like “change management”, “life-long learning”, “multi-tasking” and “cross functional skill sets” echo these new demands made on employees at all levels.

How can we possibly keep up with all of this change? The answer: Planning. During the decades of job security, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, career planning was at most a one- or two-time process. Jobs were obtained in a fairly straightforward manner. If employees were honest, hard working, punctual and did what was expected, they would most likely rise up the ladder of advancement. There was no need to re-evaluate one’s direction as the company took on the role of deciding the next steps for its work force.

Today, career advancement is no longer a process based on anticipated rewards bestowed by grateful organizations. True job security is no longer met by external structures, but rather is experienced through self-direction and preparation. The ladder of advancement is more likely to be horizontal rather than vertical (i.e., increased skills, experience and training rather than enhanced job titles). Today, we need to be the masters of our own destinies – to keep current with the demands of the times, to take on a proactive approach and to consistently re-evaluate our direction.

Previously, when change came much more slowly and workers could expect lifelong employment with cost of living raises and predictable advancements, little time and effort were spent refocusing careers. Today, it is essential that we engage in in-depth, sometimes yearly career assessment… an annual career check-up. Focus, flexibility, preparation and planning are all essential components for career success.

Consider the following questions and rate your responses on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest score:

  • How viable is your position to the success of your organization?
  • Is your industry/field expanding and experiencing increased demand in today’s market?
  • Is your job currently meeting your needs for meaningful and challenging work?
  • Are you given sufficient opportunities for professional growth and skill development?
  • Is your current work allowing enough time for family, relationship and lifestyle needs?
  • Are you receiving pay and benefits appropriate to your financial goals?
  • Generally, are your relationships with your supervisor/coworkers/clients/customers positive?
  • If your total score was less than 55, it’s time to re-evaluate your career direction and create some specific plans to meet your goals. A well-known study of Harvard students 10 years after graduation showed that those who had specific goals made three times the annual salary of average Harvard graduates. However, those graduates who had taken an extra step increased this number exponentially. The graduates who had specific written goals made ten times the average amount in annual salary! Although money is definitely not the sole measure of success, this study illustrates the power of planning, focus and direction.

    Louise Garver, CMP, CPRW, JCTC, CEIP, MCDP, has assisted senior executives and management clients worldwide in all aspects of job search, interviewing and negotiations, development of resume and marketing letters, career transition and career management since 1985. President of Career Directions, LLC, she is an award-winning, published and certified career coach, professional resume writer, outplacement consultant and former corporate recruiter. For help in winning the career your deserve, visit

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