This article was first published in the June 2012 Irish edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
'Is your career a noun or a verb?' This is the question author and career advice expert Rowan Manahan put to ACCA members at the Clarion Hotel, Liffey Valley, on 15 May. By career as a verb, he meant 'careering along' without control or direction. Simple, but not necessarily easy, actions are at the heart of making your career a noun, he said.
Mum's the word
Manahan began by quoting some advice from his mother, which, he said, remains relevant to the professional advancing their career. The first is 'don't put all your eggs in the one basket' and the second is that 'people are not against you, they are for themselves'. He also quoted from Louis Pasteur, who pointed out that 'luck favours the prepared mind'. Collating these together, Manahan said that it was important to remember that career management is a 'permanent campaign', rather than a piecemeal effort that gets underway when an opportunity comes into view. 'The key to your strategy is to eliminate luck from your endeavours' he said.
IQ and EQ
Stressing that there was nothing new in such an observation, he said the challenge for many people was that, while they understood the need for planning at an intellectual level, engaging with it at an emotional level was a different matter. As human beings, we are largely programmed to favour instant gratification over delayed rewards, he said, therefore it is not always instinctive to plan for the future. In essence, he said, effective career management comes down to recognising each of us has one resource; three strands of action; and seven behaviours to consider. Time is the resource and he reminded the audience that: 'you will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it'.
The strands of behaviour take their cue from the ancient Chinese classic The Art of War in which leaders are advised to understand three things when engaging with their enemy: themselves; the enemy; and the terrain. For career management, this revolves around having a plan, gaining market intelligence and plugging into a network where insights are shared.
The seven behaviours that need to be inculcated are: positivity, credibility, clarity, setting expectations, being 'elevator ready' and writing well. Ultimately, he said, none of these qualities came about by chance - all have to be cultivated and honed.
For accountants and finance professionals, he pointed to the monthly report as a hugely important document for having achievements recognised and noticed by senior management. 'It's your opportunity to communicate up the line - your diary of what a difference you've been making.'
Manahan also stressed the importance of LinkedIn to cultivate a reputation of expertise in a particular area. If you are a guru in one area, prospective employers want to see that - and the first place they will look for it is online.'