20. January 2021

What approach do you pursue for your career planning?

Last year we regularly heard that companies “had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own”. But can this really just be explained in such simple terms? Good risk management enables companies to be better prepared for unexpected occurrences and to sail through times of crisis without being shipwrecked. This is the approach we should also take into consideration for our own careers.

Entrepreneurship is a risky endeavour and requires personal initiative and personal responsibility. People who are in charge of a company must be prepared for change at any time. Being forearmed against uncertainties therefore requires a permanent application of risk management. It is important to identify possible risks early on (one’s own dependencies being a case in point), to assess their incidence and damage potential and, on this basis, to take appropriate measures. The current pandemic was generally judged to be an unlikely event, but then its occurrence could not have been prevented by individual companies. What is more important, however, is an estimation of how its consequences for one’s own company was assessed. Thus a clear distinction has to be made between the general cause and individual consequences. Even if the now well-known cause could not be influenced at the time, this does not also necessarily justify its negative impacts on one’s own company.

Entrepreneurs are aware of the fact that the mere preservation of a market position that was achieved through hard work is difficult. This requires a great deal of time, innovative spirit and financial resources since otherwise competitors will soon challenge their position and will sooner or later overtake them. However, if this applies to the “mere” preservation of the status quo, then companies would be well advised to invest all the more in the development of their business when it comes to growth.

These considerations concerning corporate risk management can also be applied to people’s individual performance and career planning. If these thoughts are applied to One Man/Woman Ltd., we soon discover that the same logic holds good for our own employability and professional development, i.e. for our careers.

Of course there are still strokes of good fortune where someone was in the right place at the right time and was literally catapulted up the career ladder. Yet the principle of hope isn’t any good for serious planning. Companies’ requirements change too fast and the labour market has become too unsteady for people simply to be able to wait in confidence. And in a fast-living time, it is rare for someone to be able to grow into a new role slowly. Today, time windows have become smaller, and the perception of these opportunities requires us to be ready for immediate deployment at the right point in time. In strategy terms, this means that we should prepare for various options at any time. In the spirit of Pestalozzi, we thus have to assume personal responsibility for the ongoing acquisition of new knowledge (head) and experience (hand), which ideally is more agreeable and more likely to succeed if we combine it with what we think is right (heart). In this way, we are ready for action in a specific case and are able to exploit the option on offer with confidence.

Yet this also means being able to live with uncertainties and to accept possible losses caused by expenditure that is not of any direct use. What is important in this context is to develop resilience and an ability to cope with frustration. The good news is that in the end, what was presumed to be negative still constitutes a valuable investment in professional terms: you thus provide evidence that you are open to new things and have even tried them out yourselves (cue: entrepreneurship), have constantly been on the move and have wanted to advance yourself (cue: agility), have not given up in spite of setbacks (cue: resilience), have always been alert (cue: courage and curiosity), have proved to be someone with initiative and personal responsibility (cue: leadership) and have been committed to yourself (cue: authenticity). The ability to succeed in the fiercely contested recruitment market and to continue to preserve your own employability requires permanent adaptation and change to ensure that you do not only remain interesting and relevant but will also be able to constantly continue your development.

People who want to have a successful career want to achieve more than the sole preservation of their present employability, which already requires great investments in terms of time and money anyway. They conceive of themselves as innovative people with personal initiative and responsibility and are ready to make corresponding investments and, should the worst come to the worst, to sustain concomitant potential losses. My recommendation: take your professional development into your own hands and be prepared to assume personal responsibility for risks related to wrong decisions instead of being “looked after” by your employers or merely passively relying on the principle of hope – for with the right risk management in your own career planning, you can also arm yourself optimally against unplanned eventualities.

 

 

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About the author
Prof. Dr. Bruno Mascello Academic Director of the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law at the University of St.Gallen, Director of the executive programme for lawyers “Management for the Legal Profession (MLP-HSG)”, attorney at law, lecturer and author dealing with various topics at the intersection of law and management.