One of our terrific contributors, Deborah Brackney, who is vice president for Mountain States Employers Council, submitted an article to CausePlanet that merits repeating because of its ongoing relevancy: Look for challenges in different phases of your career to keep it fresh. I think too often we wait for opportunities to happen to us rather than seek them out or actively manage our careers in the nonprofit sector.
According to Brackney, there are phases and stages to our work lives. And at each stage, there are concrete steps we can take to manage our careers. The model of organizational development that suggests that organizations go through distinct phases – Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Ending – is similar to the phases of a career.
When we are in the Introductory phase, we are just beginning to learn what it is to be an employee. At this stage, employees should ask themselves, does this job fit my values, my lifestyle and prepare me for other jobs?
The next stage – Growth – occurs as we develop into our careers and our professions. It is often in this stage where promotions happen, or we move into jobs with more responsibility and decision making. At this point, there are three opportunities to maximize your career: sharing knowledge, developing leadership skills and reflecting on your job situation.
At the Growth stage, it’s time to reflect and ask if this is the right career, job or organization for you is critical. Especially in nonprofits, it is important to assess an employee’s job alignment with the mission and work of the organization. Developing an informal network of peers is helpful in guiding your reflections.
As we enter into the Maturity stage of our careers, one of the most important tasks we can take on is mentoring. Finding a newer employee or younger colleague who benefits from the wisdom of this career stage helps sustain the organization and helps keep our skills fresh.
One of the pitfalls of this stage is the risk of job burnout. To help manage burnout, many find a formal or informal coach who can help set goals or point out new areas of growth. Job advancement at this stage is often lateral, and it is best to assess if a new job will renew our sense of purpose. Four sites that are helpful if you look for a new job are:
These three stages are not necessarily linear. We can enter a job at the growth or maturity stage. We may decide that we want to take on a new profession and start again in the Introduction stage. Whatever stage we are in, it is important to keep resumes updated and networks fresh. Don’t wait until you realize that you are ready for a career change to update your resume and reconnect with your network. Newer social networking tools such as LinkedIn are great for staying close to colleagues.
Watch for our upcoming feature by Tommy Spaulding called It’s Not Just Who You Know for tips on “netgiving” versus networking.