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Effective career management 101

At MentorCruise, an online community of exceptional mentors and mentees, we understand how intentional career management can lead to meaningful job growth and job responsibilities. Career management is that lifelong or continuing process that allows you to adapt to our dynamic economy’s changing demands.

Today, the way we manage our careers constitutes one of the most disruptive changes in the world of work. Several decades ago, we more or less relied on our employers for a career and trusted them to support us progress over time.

But nowadays, the trend has changed radically, giving rise to a fresh set of challenges, entrepreneurial outcomes, new market tools, and an attractive new marketplace for job seekers.

Several large businesses are struggling hard to address this situation because it becomes quite challenging to manage in many cases. Nonetheless, finding a mentor for long term success can save you all the stress in managing your career.

In this article, you will learn about the following.

  • What is career management?

  • Traditional career growth

  • Bersin’s Key to Successful Career Models

  • How career management profits an organization.

  • Why career management programs fail.

  • How career management works in startups

  • How to ensure career success of startup employees

What is career management?

In business development, career management is a process of empowering employees to understand and improve their career abilities and interests and use them effectively both within and after leaving the company.

In simpler terms, what is career management? Career management can also be defined as a lifelong, self-monitored career planning process of defining and setting professional goals and developing strategies for attaining them. Special career management actions might entail posting open jobs, granting realis­tic career-oriented evaluations, and administering formal career advancement projects.

Your career journey starts the moment you get into a school to gain the right knowledge, leave school as a, for example, graduate student, get into a job search, find an internship, get job opportunities, make great (or silly) career choices, take on freelancing projects, eventually become an entrepreneur or switch professions, and so on.

Career planning helps individuals explore and collect information, enabling them to syn­thesize, achieve competencies, make choices, establish goals, and adopt actions to forge their career path. While you may look back on your career, acknowledging that your career goals were fulfilled, others feel unlucky enough and believe that their lives and potentials went unfulfilled career-wise.

Whatever the case, employers often have a significant influence on their employees’ careers. For professional development, some set formal career man­agement rules, while others do not. And whichever way you feel will largely depend on how you or your employer manage your careers.

Whatever the situation, you are not alone and you can come out of it. We have seen professionals at MentorCruise effectively managing careers for the success of many different organizations and individuals, seeking career growth or midlife career changes.

Traditional career growth

For many decades, career development were somewhat predictable. If you began work as a technician, clerk, or architect, you could wait to advance upward over time until you finally arrive at a point where you decided between a “professional” or “managerial” path.

This all went pretty well because most organizations had a uniform pipeline of managerial offices in the bureaucracy, so if you aspired to progress into management, you had lots of opportunities.

As shown in the model below by talent management analyst and founder of Bersin by Deloitte Josh Bersin, the managerial track was generally more rewarding, but you equally engaged for more obligations, accountability, and oftentimes risks.

Bersin Career Management

The organization itself was intended to support this by developing a range of “blocking processes” that compelled managers to appraise your “potential” before your promotion. Actually, the entire notion of succession management was devised to determine who crept up the right side of this pyramid and who tarried on the left side.

Many artifacts were built around the traditional model, involving job titles (assistant, manager, senior manager, director, senior director, vice president, and so on), job levels (several large businesses have sixty or more levels), pay grades, and different benefits practices that compensated workers as they mounted the hierarchy.

Individuals at higher levels had larger parking places, bigger offices, higher privileges, and much more. In fact, the human resource (HR) departments developed a lot of support around this.

Corporate politics

In several corporations, this career process was quite stressful. This entire process generated a lot of political and cultural patterns in businesses, regardless of the industry. Many people started to schmooze senior leaders, arranging plum tasks and other things to get promoted. Others relish global responsibilities and ambitiously move from role to role, just to learn, foster growth and move upward.

At individual levels, the traditional career models possessed problems. Imagine that you are an engineer or scientist and never desired to go into management. You solely had to deal with it. Maybe your organization had a great technical career track. Perhaps it didn’t. However, the key to a successful career model will mean matching individual needs to business needs.

Josh Bersin put forth a concept that works better.

Bersin’s Key to Successful Career Models

Bersin’s Key to Successful Career Models

In essence, organizational structure today is much more fluid. With the advent of more generalist tools that help facilitate specialist tasks, employees can now, more than ever, evaluate their interests and move diagonally, shift careers or even become entrepreneurs.

In this new career management model, the individual development plan (IDP) was a synthesis of individual, organizational and societal demands. A person’s career trajectory will be based on interests, competencies, business goals, networking and other opportunities. No more gatekeeping management professionals.

From the traditional model, you can see that companies consider what the individuals desired. They annealed the “career development” method into performance management. Your managers, the reverent possessor of your work life, were supposed to help you accomplish your career goal.

The traditional way might have worked well in the 1970s and 80s. But nowadays, it grasps everyone back. Managers are often not only unaware of other openings within a company, but also, most of them are not even good at coaching to begin with. There aren’t just enough resources to keep everyone on the loop as companies expand.

Today, society is pretty different. Companies are extremely dynamic, and recent research reveals that 92% of senior leaders desire to redesign the company to accelerate agility and market speed.

Current business units, client opportunities, and teams are continually formed, from marketing to consulting to product development. Young employees crave to walk around, get important projects and hasten their progress. And company leaders can barely locate “ready” leaders fast enough, and so would have to promote individuals before they’re ripe and let them “acquire in place.”

All this is occurring in a working environment where careers, jobs, and new opportunities are natural. If your organization does not grant impressive advancement opportunities for your workers, they might check out in place or leave.

How Career Management profits organization

Effective and well-established career programs will profit you (as an employee) and your organization in several ways. These incorporate the following.

  • Staffing records. Effective career management will secure a constant supply of technical, professional, and managerial skills to attain future organizational goals.

  • Inside Staffing. Because of the numerous inherent benefits of promotion, most organizations prefer to promote employees when jobs become available. However, recruitment from within demands a substantial career management program to ensure that employees can operate adequately in their new jobs.

  • Mitigating staffing issues. Some staffing issues may be solved by efficient career management. A high percentage of employee turnover may result in the perception that limited opportunity exists within the company. Also, hiring new employees may be simpler if aspirants discern that they develop their employees and provide career opportunities.

  • Meeting employee needs. The prevailing generation of employees is vastly diverse from those of past generations. Higher levels of training have boosted career expectations. And many employees regard their employers as responsible for presenting opportunities for these expectations to be realized.

  • Improved motivation. Because professional advancement is directly linked to job performance, an employee is expected to be motivated to work at top levels to accomplish professional goals.

  • Vocation equality. Many positive professional action programs comprise formal plans to improve women’s career mobility and other previously prohibited groups.

Your career management programs should aid your employees to recognize advancement opportunities and outline career tracks within your companies.

However, many employers have recently recognized that their career management programs are falling short.

How Career Management Works in Startups

Does career management exist in startup companies? The question couldn’t be any more relevant considering that new business applications are on the rise again after the economy was disrupted by the pandemic.

Startups are typically characterized by a flat organizational structure where a small team of employees reports directly to the CEO. They don’t have a hierarchical structure with layers of management positions. It’s different from large organizations, where there is a clear career path for employees to advance to higher positions.

The reality is that small startup employees have a very short career ladder, but the opportunity to climb the ladder rarely presents itself—unless a founder leaves or dies unexpectedly. Career progression within a small organization is hazy at best.

What Career Management Model Do Startups Use?

Let’s face it, employee career growth isn’t exactly a priority for startups in the early stages of the business lifecycle. They focus on product development, fundraising, and marketing. They don’t have the resources or the time to plot their employees’ career trajectories.

This may all sound very discouraging, but it’s important to remember that startups are built differently. Career growth in startups is not about getting promoted to a higher position and having people report to you. It’s kind of silly if you are only a team of 10-12 people.

What startups can’t provide in terms of managerial positions, they more than make up for it in other ways, such as recognition, monetary compensation, industry exposure, stock options, experience, and autonomy, among other things.

Although there’s no definitive career management model for startups, Bersin’s model fits right into the dynamics of a small company with a flat organizational structure. Startup companies can help their employees advance their careers through experiential learning.

This means acquiring and developing more skills to prepare them for the career opportunities of the future. Alongside this is gaining new perspective and improving decision-making skills.

How to Ensure the Career Success of Startup Employees

It’s no secret that startups are often associated with fast-paced and high-energy work environments. While this may be an appealing environment for some, it’s not always conducive to employee growth and career success.

The startup environment and dynamics don’t always create a culture that supports employee long-term growth. The reason for this is that most startups are focused on their own survival rather than on developing their employees.

When employees feel that their careers are going nowhere or that their career growth is heavily tied to the success of the company, they are likely to go elsewhere. This can lead to a culture of job-hopping in which employees move from one startup to another in search of a better opportunity. While this may be good for the employees, it’s bad news for startups because they are potentially losing skilled individuals to their competitors.

Startups should be able to assure employees that careers will continue to follow an upward trajectory. This involves eliminating the “stair-step” path and putting an emphasis on continuous learning and improvement.

Even in the absence of a traditional career ladder, startups can play a pivotal role in advancing the careers of their employees within the organization.

  • Create more opportunities to acquire and improve skills.

Twenty-first-century careers are evolving and many job functions are being automated using AI. While certain job roles will become obsolete, human social skills, problem-solving prowess, and cognitive abilities remain irreplaceable.

With that in mind, startups should create programs that will build skills for the future to keep employees competitive. Offering career management tools, such as self-directed learning and self-assessment tools, is a step in the right direction.

  • Develop work experiences through job rotation.

In their career management model, Besin puts forward the idea that employees can acquire and develop a wide range of skills by providing opportunities to work on different tasks, projects, or assignments. In startups, employees are mostly self-starters who can take on different roles. Having a job rotation will amplify the skills that they already have. This will also give them the time to discover hidden skills or affirm what they have already set out to do.

  • Match the job role to the employee’s career path.

It’s not uncommon for startup employees to fill more than one job role. This is especially true for cash-strapped startups that are still in the early stages of the business and have no resources to hire employees for every job position.

As a result, startup employees are able to wear many hats. While this can be a great way to gain experience and learn new skills, it can also put them in a job position they don’t want.

For instance, a software engineer may not want to work in a sales position. It’s important for startups to recognize a mismatch in job functions and employees’ career aspirations. This mismatch can lead to frustration on the part of the employees, which can affect their motivation and productivity.

Mentored startups know that each employee’s skills and experience should match their desired career path. This information can be gathered through interviews or through an assessment process. From there, they can accurately assign employees to the right job role.

On the part of the employees, they need to change their career management mindset. There should be a shift away from the notion that career success is measured by how high they are in the management pyramid. Instead, employees must sync their career goals to the dynamics of the startup industry.

In this situation, employees can benefit from seeking advice from career experts at MentorCruise to chart their own career paths.

Why career management programs often fail

Employers report that the availability of career advancement opportunities is amongst the top reasons, ahead of base salary and challenging work, why employees would join a company.

According to a study by the Global Workforce, 2014, 41% of employees maintain that they must join a different organization to advance.

Even more alarming, around the same rate, 40% of employees who have been initially recognized as huge potentials by their firms say they necessitate leaving their firm to advance their careers.

Generally, employees report that career advancement opportunities list among the topmost reasons they’d join or leave an institution.

Towers Watson’s research has reviewed 49% of employers who report that they effectively offer traditional career advancement openings. In comparison, 38% say they offer non-traditional career development opportunities.

A recently published document by Renée Smith pulls on the survey findings to indicate that though it may seem easy to create jobs, establish competencies, implement career planning tools, and communicate opportunities, the reality of developing an effective career management program is more complex.

The talent and rewards director at towers Watson, put forth the following challenges that employers encounter in creating and executing effective career programs.

Unleveraged Technology

Very few employers make effective use of technology like corporate intranet platforms to offer career advancement programs. Yet, technology programs that offer modern career information and tools can actively empower employees to manage their careers.

Inexperienced Managers

Only a few organizations equip their managers with career management training and tools, in discussion guides or talking points. This explains why just a few employees rate their managers as effective in holding career management discussions.

Organizations must ensure that managers are trained to have effective career discussions with their employees. Unmindful of whether these discussions are formally placed at certain periods or occur informally at any moment within the year, managers need to be armed with information on the company’s career management plan and tools.

This will make them ask appropriate questions as they manage employees during the process of creating actionable career plans.

In startups, there’s little to no opportunity to support a robust career management program for employees. This is because many startups are run by young entrepreneurs in their 30s who are still learning the ropes themselves.

They can hardly be considered experienced in their own line of expertise, much less in developing and implementing a career management program for their employees. They simply don’t have the time and resources to do so. As a result, employees are left on their own to figure out their careers, a daunting task in a highly dynamic and unpredictable environment.

Disconnected communications

Often, information associated with career management is delivered in a confused manner.

Different parts of the human resource (HR) control different career management components with no apparent accountability or partnership in some institutions.

Also, organizations may not have the business buy-in for career management programs, making career management the single HR domain.

In such a scenario, employers must step back and reflect on how to best design, deliver, and scale an integrated and effective career management program.


The career management process covers different notions, including, career planning, self-awareness, career exploration, networking, and life-long learning.

Countless corporations are missing to perceive this big picture when it comes to career management and are at the risk of losing some of their best skills. Yet, it will be easier to avoid these losses by accessing a personal career coach to get expert advice.

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