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So How Do You Manage Your Career

Contributed by : Dilip Saraf

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Many clients, who come to me for guidance to improve their career, often come from the state of "unconscious incompetence." Here they do not even know what they don"t know, often letting their career "happen" to them. In one of my earlier blogs I had analogized this way of managing one"s career to how a jellyfish exists: It is the only species in the entire animal kingdom that does not move to go after either its food or to save its life from its predators. It floats in water letting the currents take it wherever they might, surviving on any food that floats its way! When it comes to your own career management you do not want to be a jellyfish; you must be a shark, instead!

Taking charge of your career is important if you want to move in the direction and with a velocity that you define, not by something or by someone else. This requires changing your mindset and then making a plan that is realistic. A realistic plan entails following a process for career management that fits within your constraints, such as time, energy, and resources at your disposal. Once you decide what you want to go after or get, then making a plan and following a disciplined course of action are important to achieve the goals that one sets in a career.

In this blog I am providing some tips on how to put together a plan that can be worked on a regular basis to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Although it would be good to set milestones in one"s career (Director before I am 35, VP by 40, etc.) and achieve them, often such goals elude most because of the many factors that they cannot control. This can get frustrating. Instead, managing a disciplined process and achieving process goals (as means) towards an end are a much better approach. So, here are my suggestions:

  1. Create a plan for your career growth and have a clear vision of how you want to grow your career. Do not merely focus on a certain title to seek or a salary to attain, but focus, instead, on your development goals. Such goals can be stated in terms of professional standing (being the best architect in network design, best creative copy writer, etc.), publications, or patents. People often blame "politics" for not attaining their career goals, but if you set goals based on your own achievements then politics cannot usually vitiate such goals and you have much more control over them.
  2. Spend a planned and minimum period every day on your career management no matter how "busy" you are. You must find time to invest in your career development. Such time can include increasing your network meaningfully on LinkedIn or other social media, getting LinkedIn Recommendations for your work or writing them for others; getting introductions to influential people, etc. This time can also include reading material relevant to your professional growth. Writing blogs and posting them on your website or publishing them in appropriate outlets can create visibility that goes well beyond doing great work and keeping quiet about it for someone to notice. This "strategy" does not work in most cases.
  3. If you do not write blogs or articles at least take some time and post comments on articles and blogs that appear on LinkedIn and other postings. This will increase your visibility. Google yourself and find out how many hits you get from the search results. Is this how you want to be known?
  4. Identify some hidden or ignored opportunities at work and propose to your boss or higher-ups as an initiative that you want to shepherd. Make a plan and show the benefits to the organization, team, or to the customer by executing this on your own, outside your assigned work. Taking this approach also will require you to better manage your assigned work.
  5. Catch someone at work doing great things and write an email about their great work to their boss and others to give them visibility. You"ll get noticed by providing visibility and recognition to others. Also, this is free!
  6. Before any significant assignment of work to you, first discuss with your boss what will it mean to your career to deliver on this assignment. If the assignment is particularly challenging and is such that it will make a difference in the way how the business is conducted as a result, set some demands (in an appropriate way) with your boss, so that when you succeed you can hold your boss accountable for giving you what you initially asked. Most wait until it is completed to stake their claim. This approach rarely works because after all the hard work and delivery of what you promised the value of your work does not remain the same in the esteem of the beholders. You must extract this promise beforehand! Confirming in writing (from your end) generally cinches the deal.
  7. Identify some courses that will enhance your professional standing or leadership capability. Many HR departments often offer some courses and trainings. Others can be availed online or locally. Many companies often will fund your efforts to complete certain certifications in your line of work.
  8. Find opportunities to speak at conferences. These opportunities will provide you visibility outside your company and will increase your marketability.
  9. Keep updating your rsum with your accomplishments, not just your assignments or responsibilities. Keep your LinkedIn Profile updated at all times and look for the numbers on your Home page that tell you how many people searched you and how many viewed your Profile.
  10. Find yourself a mentor and be a mentor to someone. Both ways are excellent avenues for professional growth.


Managing one"s career is not a spectators" sport. Take charge and learn how to stay in the driver"s seat when it comes to managing your own career! Stop being a jellyfish!

Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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