Basic Career Lessons to Moving Out and Up

The current economic downturn in Canada, many public, private and not-for-profit organizations have started to compress its organizational structure with a shift from a traditional stovepipe to a lean flat savvy organization as a way to maximize organizational performance and results.  While new government economic initiatives could be just weeks, they could also be months away, so opportunities for those seeking new challenges in the next phase of their career may or may not materialize immediately.  However, while such an opportunity may not materialize overnight, early preparation is the first step to having an advantage over the competition.

While the job and occupational choices you make during a career are determined in large part by forces determined by you, an organizational and other external forces (spouse, children, geographic location, etc.) also play a role.

Career Development

While we may think careers will just happen, there is ample evidence to support the notion that careers develop in a predictable, common sequence of stages. We know from this evidence that at various ages people face common issues and pressures that they attempt to resolve in their lives.  The stages affect, and are affected by, the career activities and choices an individual makes. So understanding this process is important if you want to move up and out!

Essentially a career rolls out in this type of progression:

In the early stages of a career, an individual selects a job and an organization in which to begin employment in the chosen career field.  The amount and quality of information obtained can affect whether the initial job choice will be a fulfilling introduction to an individual’s career or a disappointing false start.  Obstacles the individual faces in this stage include: initial job challenge, initial job satisfaction, and organizational socialization.

As you move into 30 – 40’s you begin to dealing with finding a place in the world and pursuing their life dream; this also involves becoming established in a career and in an organization.  Challenges the individual must meet to do this include: becoming technically proficient; and assimilating into organization’s culture.  Successfully meeting these challenges generally result in job satisfaction, increased responsibility and promotional opportunities, increased salary and social rewards.  In short, the early career stage is about becoming established and “making it”.

In your mid-range 45 – 55, you enter what I call midlife. You start to examine your life. You reaffirm or modify the Dream, make choices appropriate to middle adulthood, and remain productive at work.  Such challenges are consistent with the notion of a mid-career crisis.  Examples of a mid-career crisis include: plateauing (lack of increased job responsibility or career promotion) and technical obsolescence (insufficient technical skills to perform tasks, i.e. the inability to adapt to computers).  Individuals who successfully manoeuvre such obstacles remain productive, while individuals who fail to manoeuvre such obstacles experience frustration and job stagnation – you are where you are!

At 60 – beyond, you face two challenges; first, maintaining the momentum to remain productive and maintaining a sense of self-esteem and secondly, the emotional upheaval of retirement, which brings financial, emotional and social changes.

What can help you move along the continuum?

In reality, there are two sets of activities can ensure you remain at the top of your game! First, becoming aware of self, opportunities, constraints, choices, and consequences; next you want to revaluate your career-related goals; and consider your current work environment, your education, and related development experiences which can aid in providing you with the direction, timing, and sequence of steps you need to take to move forward.

Understanding self, and then taking action to develop alternate skills so that you can assume new job duties, changes and challenges begins first with first understanding who you are and where you want to go – with this information you can develop career awareness and a career plan and identify those opportunities tailored to specific needs.

Rocky J. Dwyer, PhD, FCPA, CPA, FCMA CMA is a Professor at Walden University’s College of Management & Technology. He is an award winning writer, editor and educator, who has consulted and undertaken research for private, not-for profit, and public sector organizations to examine and validate strategic organizational capacity, and performance management. His research has been published and presented at conferences and symposiums in Canada, the United States, South America, Germany, the Russian Federation, and the People’s Republic of China. He can be contacted at:

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