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As we begin today, I want to share a personal story with you, a confession, if you will, about my own career failings.

First let me summarize career path.

  • I have been a newspaper reporter
  • A PR representative and the first director of Hermann Hospital’s Life Flight program
  • I was the national marketing manager for the aircraft company
  • I served as the business development manager for an investor-owned hospital management company
  • I ran  business development for one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital systems
  • I served as GM of a home IV company
  • I ran  the largest private EMS system in Texas
  • I directed an international recruiting company
  • I started three companies — a consultancy and two search firms. 

I have worked in seven countries on four continents.

Now here is the embarrassing part:  I did all of this without a plan.  The truth is that the best way to describe my career is with one word.  LUCK.  I have been very lucky.

To be truthful, the chances of replicating that career today are slim to none.  The market has shifted  in dramatic fashion.  The rules of the career management road are radically different.   You can still get lucky but the best advice I can offer is do not depend on it.  Luck, as you have probably heard, is not a reliable career management strategy, which brings me to the theme of today’s podcast:

The five essential elements of successful career management.

Yes, there are five important things you need to do so if you are in that amazingly large cohort hoping you could skate through your professional life just by doing a good job and getting lucky, well I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Doing a good job IS a very important part of having a successful personal career brand and achieving your income objectives. 

Performing with a high degree of reliability is foundational to achieving that success.

However,  there is so much more and this is where far too many executives miss the boat, they do not achieve their full potential because they have a narrow view of what is required.

The first essential career management pillar begins with having a vision — what is it that you would like to accomplish in your career as well as how do you want to be perceived by those with whom you come into contact. 

Without a vision you cannot have a plan for success.

In coming up with a vision statement for your career, be  thoughtful, be curious,  Do not jump at the first thing that comes to your mind that seems to make sense.  Do your homework.

Then develop a career strategic plan.   You wouldn’t want to work for a company that had no vision or a formal plan for how they planned to achieve their goals — to be a successful enterprise.  You certainly wouldn’t want to work for a business that lacked the discipline to formally record in writing  their vision, their goals and the steps to be successful.  If those common sense rules about writing it down apply to a corporation, so should they apply to you.  Write it down. 

The second essential element for career management is to execute your plan.  You can have a plan but if bears no resemblance to the work you are doing you could very well find yourself in a dead-end job, or worse, with the dreaded label of “job hopper”, someone who can’t hold a job and that is career limiting.   

Now my long list of jobs covered more than 40 years.  I did not have a plan.  I did not know where I wanted to go so I bounced from one interesting job to the next and was very lucky.

If you cannot execute you cannot succeed.  In this new normal competitive job market you need to build and sustain a reputation for being someone who performs with a high level of reliability.  Execution is essential. You must deliver results.

One of the questions I frequently use in our comprehensive candidate interviews focuses on execution.  At the end of the day, which word will be the single most important determinant of whether you succeed or not.  Is it:

  • Strategy
  • Vision
  • People, or
  • Execution

Most people pick people.  A few select strategy or vision, but the answer is execution because you can have a great plan with good people but if you do not execute, you will not succeed.

To succeed in executing you must be informationally current, from regulatory issues to industry trends — you need to know what has worked for others and what has not. 

You must also succeed with employee engagement.  You might be able to achieve some success with demands and a bull whip but those results are not sustainable. 

And you must be someone the employees trust. That means you must be truthful.  Truth is the foundation on which trust is built.  Be truthful.  Be trust worthy.

One of the greatest things a boss can say about you is this: “I trust you because I know I can depend on you.” 

In a competitive job market, with the likelihood of continued corporate consolidations, that is precisely the reputation you want to earn and protect.  It will make a big difference in your life

The third element in effective career management is to keep a career journal.  For those of you who regularly read my posts and listen to this podcast, you know that career journaling is one of my hot buttons.  There are three advantages: 

  • Preserve a record of your jobs, salary, the name of supervisors and information regarding your performance evaluations.
  • Maintain a record of your significant accomplishments — quantifiable achievements.  More and more employers are more interested in your record of accomplishment.  Having this information at the ready for use in interviews is important to establish your reputation for  being an executive with highly reliable performance.
    • Record your thoughts and observations on decisions made.  What could you have done better?   This is an important process that many executives overlook.  It is the equivalent of practicing leadership skills much in the same way a concert musician or athlete practices to improve their performance.

The fourth career management essential is to invest the time to build your brand.

Your great performance is not going to be great asset if no one knows about it. 

Twenty years ago, building a brand was an expensive and time-consuming process. Today, with professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, there is simply no excuse not to spend the time it takes each week on building your personal career brand.  As  HR consultant Ron Thomas likes to say:  LinkedIn is the equivalent of having a global billboard that does not cost you anything to use. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of this incredible asset.  Ron credits LinkedIn for helping him achieve his goal of building a successful international HR consultancy based in Dubai.

The Fifth Essential Career Management pillar is to build and sustain a vibrant network of professional contacts. The value of having a productive professional network is a settled issue.  If you still want to argue or even dismiss the validity of this point,  I would encourage you to talk to the thousands of job seekers who invested the time to build and nurture and solid network. They will tell you that finding there next best job was much easier.

When you get the layoff notice it is simply too late to begin building that all-important professional network.  And it is very likely that your job search will take longer than it should.

I hope this information has been helpful.  If you have any questions, email me at AsktheRecruiter@JohnGSelf.Com.

Be sure to check out John’s Blog tomorrow.  He looks at the importance of  an overlooked quality in a leader’s toolbox of skills.