Feature: Career Fitness

Feature: Career Fitness

Feature: Career Fitness

Back in the ancient days of the early 1990’s, I wrote a book called Career Fitness: How to Find, Win & Keep the Job You Want. I used the metaphor of physical fitness to explain the new responsibility we all have for taking care of our careers. While it would be nice if it were otherwise, the reality is that a healthy career isn’t the natural course of events or the result of happenstance or luck. It is, instead, the product of a rigorous and carefully planned set of activities for which each of us is responsible. That was true in the 1990’s, and it is true today. To find and keep the job we want and to lead a fulfilling work life, each and all of us are going to have to learn how to build career fitness.

The first step, of course, is self knowledge. How healthy is your career? Are you building solid occupational strengths? Are you developing the level of competence and endurance you’ll need for long-term success in your field of work? Or, is your career showing symptoms of being out of shape? Are you professionally flabby? Do you seem to be slowing down and unable to get ahead as you once could?

As with physical fitness, many people don’t know the answers to these basic questions about their work life. They assume that all is okay because they aren’t suffering from career cardiac arrest, or what most of us call unemployment.

But, careers can be sick long before the pink slip arrives. There can be all kinds of hidden illnesses gnawing away inside a person’s career, weeks, months, even years before the symptoms visually manifest themselves in the workplace. As with many physical diseases, you can’t see these viruses early on, but they are very real, and they are definitely career-threatening.

So, what do you do? How can you protect yourself from these career afflictions? How can you build and maintain a healthy career?

The solution is deceptively simple. It involves just two steps:

  • First, you have to pay attention to your career. You have to keep an eye on it, because there are little signs which you can see, signs that can alert you to possible career problems ahead.
  • Second, you have to practice preventative medicine. If you adopt healthy career habits, if you commit yourself to a regimen of career enhancing activities, you can probably prevent most problems from ever occurring.
  • We’re all busy, however, and it’s easy to overlook the signs and put prevention on the “to do” list that we never get to. Yet, doing so has never been more hazardous to the health of your career. The massive changes sweeping through the contemporary world of work-jobs that are moving offshore or being outsourced to third party vendors, the introduction of ever more advanced technologies on the manufacturing floor and in the office cubicle, company mergers and the acquisition of one company by another, the rise of global markets and global competition in U.S. markets-all of that make it impossible to assume that today’s healthy career will inevitably continue unabated into the future. Instead, you must constantly monitor your Career Fitness, so you can protect yourself from the turbulence brought on by these changes and take advantage of the opportunities they present. In short, knowing and managing your career status is the surest way to be on top of the changes in the workplace, rather than their victim.

    To achieve such self-awareness, I suggest that you take a brief Career Fitness evaluation. This “exam” is provided in Section Two of this week’s newsletter. (We’ll bring back the Site News You Can Use that traditionally appears in Section Two in our next newsletter.) Each question in the evaluation is keyed to a specific principle or activity for building a healthy work life. Collectively, they will help you determine what kind of shape your career is in and what areas you will need to work on.

    The scoring key for the evaluation is provided in Section Three. (We’ll bring back the Site Profiles that traditionally appear in Section Three in our next newsletter.) This key will enable you to determine a status score for your career. You can then evaluate that score with the Standards for Career Fitness that follow the key.

    You’ll probably find that there are some areas where your career is in pretty good shape, and others where it clearly needs to be strengthened. To help you build up those latter areas, I’ll use upcoming editions of this newsletter to introduce and explain:

  • the central principles of Career Fitness, and
  • the seven “exercises” in the Career Fitness Workout.
  • I hope you’ll adopt the program and put it to work for your career. It can truly make a difference in both the paycheck and, more importantly, the job satisfaction that you bring home from work each day.

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    A Final Request Please tell a friend or colleagues (or two) about WEDDLE’s newsletter.

    Section Two: Your Career Fitness Evaluation

    There are 15 questions in the evaluation.

    1. When was the last time you went back to school in your occupational field?

  • This year.
  • Last year.
  • 2-4 years ago.
  • I haven’t been back to school in my field.
  • 2. Do you have a mentor?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 3. When was the last time you sat down and evaluated the course of your career and your satisfaction with it?

  • Within the last 90 days.
  • Within the last six months.
  • Within the last year.
  • More than a year ago.
  • Never have.
  • 4. Are you weary or tired, despite a decent night’s sleep, before you even get to work?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 5. Have you identified the next job you’d like to have?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 6. Are you in a training or educational program right now, adding to the knowledge and skills you can use in your current job?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 7. Do you mentor or counsel and assist another person in your field?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 8. With whom will you compete to win your next job? [Choose only one.]

  • Your co-workers.
  • New employees from outside the organization.
  • Your boss.
  • Yourself.
  • 9. Do you keep an eye on the job market at all times, including when you are employed?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 10. Have you thought about and identified your career objective?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 11. Do you work to earn a living and pursue a hobby or non-work activity for enjoyment?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 12. Who oversees the course of your career and ensures that you get the training you need and the opportunities you deserve? [Choose only one.]

  • Your boss.
  • Your employer.
  • The Human Resource Department in your organization.
  • Your mentor.
  • You.
  • 13. Is your resume up-to-date and complete?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • 14. Should job market circumstances dictate, how willing are you to consider shifting to a new occupation or industry?

  • Not willing to do so.
  • Only to certain occupations or industries.
  • Only to certain industries.
  • Willing to shift for the right opportunities.
  • Willing to shift at any time.
  • 15. How much vacation time have you used in the last two years?

  • All of the days allotted by your employer.
  • Half of the days allotted.
  • None.
  • A day here, a day there.
  • More than the allotted time.
  • Section Three: How Well Did You Do?

    Tally your Career Fitness score using the key below. (The point value of each answer is provided in the parentheses that follow it.) then, compare your score to the Standards for Career Fitness presented at the end of the newsletter. The results will tell you the status of your career and where a regimen of Career Fitness exercises can help to put it and you on the fast track to success.

    1. When was the last time you went back to school in your occupational field?

  • This year. (5)
  • Last year. (3)
  • 2-4 years ago. (2)
  • I haven’t been back to school in my field. (0)
  • 2. Do you have a mentor?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 3. When was the last time you sat down and evaluated the course of your career and your satisfaction with it?

  • Within the last 90 days. (5)
  • Within the last six months. (4)
  • Within the last year. (3)
  • More than a year ago. (1)
  • Never have. (0)
  • 4. Are you weary or tired, despite a decent night’s sleep, before you even get to work?

  • Yes. (0)
  • No. (5)
  • 5. Have you identified the next job you’d like to have?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 6. Are you in a training or educational program right now, adding to the knowledge and skills you can use in your current job?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 7. Do you mentor or counsel and assist another person in your field?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 8. With whom will you compete to win your next job? [Choose only one.]

  • Your co-workers. (0)
  • New employees from outside the organization. (0)
  • Your boss. (0)
  • Yourself. (5)
  • 9. Do you keep an eye on the job market at all times, including when you are employed?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 10. Have you thought about and identified your career objective?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 11. Do you work to earn a living and pursue a hobby or non-work activity for enjoyment?

  • Yes. (0)
  • No. (5)
  • 12. Who oversees the course of your career and ensures that you get the training you need and the opportunities you deserve? [Choose only one.]

  • Your boss. (0)
  • Your employer. (0)
  • The Human Resource Department in your organization. (0)
  • Your mentor. (0)
  • You. (5)
  • 13. Is your resume up-to-date and complete?

  • Yes. (5)
  • No. (0)
  • 14. Should job market circumstances dictate, how willing are you to consider shifting to a new occupation or industry?

  • Not willing to do so. (0)
  • Only to certain occupations or industries. (3)
  • Only to certain industries. (2)
  • Willing to shift for the right opportunities. (5)
  • Willing to shift at any time. (3)
  • 15. How much vacation time have you used in the last two years?

  • All of the days allotted by your employer. (5)
  • Half of the days allotted. (3)
  • None. (0)
  • A day here, a day there. (2)
  • More than the allotted time. (2)
  • Your Subtotal: ________

    The Standards for Career Fitness

    Your Score

    75 … Your career is in great shape!

    Congratulations, you already have very healthy career habits. Use the Career Fitness program (to be described in upcoming editions of my newsletter) to design and implement a systematic process that will continue and enhance your good habits. Doing that is the best way to sustain the vigor of your career over the long term.

    42-74 … Your career is in moderately good health.

    You have developed some genuine strengths, but there are a number of gaps that need attention. Use the Career Fitness program (to be described in upcoming editions of my newsletter) to acquire a sound set of principles and a systematic process for strengthening your Career Fitness in the near term and maintaining it over the long term.

    31-41 … Your career is suffering and needs immediate attention.

    You must focus on your career right away and strengthen it by practicing more healthy career habits. Use the Career Fitness program (to be described in upcoming editions of my newsletter) to learn and practice the skills of good career management in the near term and to establish a systematic process for sustaining Career Fitness in the long term.

    0-30 … Your career is dangerously out of shape.

    You must devote your full and immediate attention to the failing health of your career. Use the Career Fitness program (to be described in upcoming editions of my newsletter) to help you regain strength in your occupational field and acquire the skills of successful career management in the near term and to implement a systematic process for maintaining both over the long term.

    Admittedly, this evaluation is not a scientific assessment of your career. However, it will give you a good sense of your general Career Fitness and tell you how ready you are to deal with the demanding challenges of work in the 21st Century. No less important, this evaluation will also point you toward some commonsense and practical activities you can do right now to improve your career … today, tomorrow and into the future. That’s the power and the opportunity of Career Fitness.

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