Career Management Stategy: Declare Your Goals
I recently attended a conference for talent management, learning and development, and recruiting professionals at financial services firms. Attendees included HR management from several top employers of CFA charterholders. Listening to the presentations and discussions among attendees over two days, the following career management strategy emerged in my mind as one worth some attention and emphasis: Tell your employer your career goals.
Or as a senior vice president of leadership development at Bank of America Merrill Lynch put it, “Declare.”
What Does Declaring Entail?
Before you can express to anyone else your career goals, you need to clarify them for yourself.
- Frame your goals in terms of specific experiences or skill development opportunities rather than job titles or department changes.
- Determine which goals relate to strengths-based development and which to deficit-based development.
- Identify the kinds of opportunities you would be open to in order to achieve goals even if the opportunity itself isn’t your first choice.
- Be equally honest with yourself about what you do not want to do.
Informational interviews with colleagues or others in your network can be invaluable to clarifying your long-term goals and extracting from those the essential experience and skill development goals that you are most interested in achieving while with your current employer. They can equally help you define for yourself the difference between experiences you do not wish to have at all and those you will endure in order to reach a goal.
Obviously declaring entails sharing your goals with your direct supervisor, but it is important too to let others beyond your direct supervisor know.
- Ask to be assigned to cross-functional project teams.
- Develop a 30-second elevator pitch around these goals that you can use when casually networking with colleagues.
- Present your strengths-based goals in terms of the value you will bring to the opportunity you are interested in.
It comes down to this: If you do not let people know what your goals are, then at best they will guess for you. At worst they won’t care whether your career grows at all.
Even in organizations with data-driven, performance-based talent management programs in place, decision makers matching talent with growth assignments end up relying on assumptions (or worse, stereotypes). I suspect that the basic assumption made is simply that your idea of growth is whatever the organization’s is for you. Sometimes though, assumptions made on one’s behalf have more malignant implications. The classic example, and one that illustrates why this career management strategy may be even more important for women in the industry, is of a mother of young children not being presented an opportunity that requires additional travel based on an assumption (possibly even a well-intentioned assumption) that she wouldn’t want to be away from her children so much. Either way, how much easier might it be to be upfront and transparent about your career goals?
Finally, Don’t Be Afraid of Declaring and Doing So Broadly.
Once you are clear on your goals, discussing them openly will likely feel natural. For some though, it will feel awkward to be very direct about your goals with your manager and other leaders of your organization. It is also fair to say that there are inept managers who contribute to an environment where these conversations might seem difficult to have. Nonetheless, remember that in general:
- Employers genuinely believe it is your responsibility to direct and manage your own career.
- Turnover is expensive for employers, so if you are adding value and can do so even more — have greater impact over a longer term of employment — by helping to align your career goals and their talent needs, someone at your organization wants to know that.
- Your direct manager is not the only person weighing in on where your talent might be deployed, especially if you are being groomed for leadership. Leaders from other parts of the organization, whether they know you/your work well or not, may have a say in whether you are offered growth assignments.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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