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Owning Your Career Success: The Big Picture

  • By Black Life Coaches
  • /
  • July 11, 2014
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By Curtis L. Odom

The big picture of owning your own succession plan is one painted in the vivid colors of seeking and finding what you want in your career. And in the creating of an itinerary for your journey, choosing the stops along the way that will allow you to achieve your desired career success without losing your authentic self.

In my executive coaching practice, and career management work with clients, I state pretty strongly my opinion on what should be done differently with regard to talent management in organizations. I think there is gross mismanaging of top talent in organizations and this unfortunately is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is causing the so-called war for talent. This is not an anti-organization rant. It is instead, a Gen Xer calling out the miscues in talent management that both employees, and organizations make which stifle individual career passion, and hinder organizational success in the area of talent management.

I think something that’s happened culturally in our society over the last fifteen years or maybe even over the last 20 years. I feel that the culprit behind or responsible for many of problems we face as individuals and organizations is society’s need and demand for instant satisfaction, and gratification in all aspects of life–especially career. Sadly, nothing of real value in life comes from simply pushing a button to obtain. So, what we’re talking about is as much a philosophy as it is about specifics methods of how you can get unstuck from the middle.

There is no button that you can push to simply get unstuck. Being stuck in the middle is not only something that happens to an individual; there are organizations too that are stuck. They are stuck between that ‘70s mindset of how to run their business—again, very monolithic even hidebound in some ways–and the needs of the today’s multi-generational, virtual working, work-life balance demanding workforce.

As Gen Xers, we no longer want to be tied to a desk in the corporate office for 60 hours a week. We no longer want to put on our corporate uniform (a business suit is still a uniform) and troop off to a drab tan cubicle farm or a row of sterile offices just like our Baby Boomer colleagues have every day for decades–almost like lemmings going off of a career cliff.

The workforce isn’t like that today. It’s very different and there are numerous diverse dynamics at play above and beyond just generational difference. Gen Xers specifically have choices of where to work. And those of us considered top talent have many more choices. It is this known fact that allows top talent to see the mismanagement of talent from an organizational perspective, and feel it themselves from an individual perspective.

As a talented individual, you can’t comfortably live off of the organization feeding you the line, “You have a lot of opportunity here.”

If the opportunity doesn’t show up, you’re spinning your wheels. If you’re being told, “In five or ten years, you’ll get that shot to be a leader in our organization.”

That’s a hard, bitter pill to swallow for a Gen Xer that’s got any level of ambition. Do you want to spend what could be one quarter of the years you have left here on Earth hoping for your career success? Do you want to deny your career passion simply because it may be different than anything you have done professionally to this point? Do you want to become that Baby Boomer that we all know who lives in the career prison of could have, should have, and would have done things differently?

Assuming you are around 40 years old, the next twenty years could be one quarter of your living years and one half of your viable (remaining) career working years. How do you choose to spend it? Living according to some career archetype that you were told to emulate?

Organizations need to understand that it is with this perspective that some Gen Xers are thinking and re-thinking their career choices. Organizations need to begin planning for this shift in thinking as they bring practice to their talent management philosophy if they expect retain top talent. “Wait and hope” is not a career strategy when the gift of tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Any Gen Xer that has worked for any number of years at any level is going to understand the cold truths of what has been touched on so far. Because it’s not just an individual business thing; it is a systemic, corporate America cultural thing. At any level or size of bureaucracy you have these issues. They are common. They have to be addressed. They have to be changed, because, again, organizations get stuck in the middle too. The ones that remain stuck will never reach their potential of being an employer of choice. They will flounder.

Worse yet, if you’re not moving ahead as a company or an organization and this is true even as an individual, then you run the very real risk of every progress that you have made slipping away from you.

I can hear my high school track coach saying to me, “Either you are getting better or you’re getting worse. No one ever stays the same.” It was his law of the universe. And now it is mine. Adapted to my current way of thinking as a career management coach … if you are comfortable with staying the same, then you are comfortable with a career that will have you stay stuck in the middle.

Curtis Odom

Curtis L. Odom, Ed.D., is a member of BlackLifeCoaches.net, Principal Leader of Prescient Talent Strategists, LLC and author of Stuck in the Middle, A Generation X View of Talent Management


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