Do you know where you’re going?

Graphic of barefoot black footprints disappearing into the distance from bottom-left to top-rightI’ve often said that my career path wasn’t exactly a path, but more like, well, a meandering wander.

It turned out well; it turned out that what I meandered into over the years was something I had a talent for: systems analysis and software development, to the point where I was able to observe, analyze, design, and develop a business system that many thought impossible at the time.

But no one ever asked me what I wanted to accomplish in my career. No one asked me whether I wanted to, well, even be a systems / business analyst or a software developer. Nor did anyone ever ask me if I wanted to be a leader.

Fortunately for me, that’s where I ended up anyway, but my path was roundabout, to say the least.

Which is one reason why I do what I do now.

Too many companies fail to define career paths

Does your employer support your career development? Do they have conversations with you about where you want to go in your career, what the next step toward that objective might be, and specifically what you need to do to take that step?

Even very large, well-known companies leave their people in the dark about what options are available to them – and how to get there.

Meanwhile, a recent McKinsey & Company report states that the biggest reason why people leave – even over and above compensation – is “lack of career development and advancement.”

This should be a big wake-up call for any organization that doesn’t have a process for helping employees at all levels understand their potential and options.

What can you do?

While I’m firmly in the camp that says employers should be providing professional development guidance and support to their people, I am also firmly in the camp that says employees should take ownership of getting the insight they need to make their own career choices.

(No, those are not competing camps! It’s both/and.)

So if you’re in the dark about your “career development and advancement” options, ASK! Your manager may or may not have answers, but at least if you ASK, you’ll be making it known that you’re interested in a long-term future with the company. And be persistent until you get answers.

If, on the other hand, you’re a manager or leader in a company that’s not doing this as part of a career development process for all employees, you can still take action. Bring the subject up with your own manager, and talk with your team about what they want and how you can support them.

It doesn’t have to be a formal process

Don’t wait for your company to take action. It doesn’t have to be a formal, company-wide process – though, of course, it’s great if it is, and when it is, it’s a big boost to retention, engagement, productivity, your culture, profitability – all those important things that leaders care about.

But don’t wait for that. Just do it. For yourself, and for your people.

If your company is ready to design and implement a strategic leadership development and career planning process – we should talk. Contact me and we’ll set a time to see if I can help. It shouldn’t surprise you, if you’ve been reading my work and looking at my resources and offers, that designing systems and processes is a big part of what I do and what I’m good at!