Maybe some of us are just lucky and end up in the right career. I know I’ve been passionate about my career over the last three decades, and I hope I enjoy the next three decades as much. But I also believe there are actions that help us maximize our talents and emit joy for the sheer experience of using them while we’re here on earth. Ideally, we also get to make a contribution to others along the way. As Mom to two 20-somethings, I’ve been considering the subject a lot recently.
My influence on my children is significant as they begin their own career journeys. But while career development used to be limited to young people, with the new “retirementality” (a word coined by Mitch Anthony in his book The New Retirementality [John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2008; originally published in 2001 by Dearborn Trade Publishing]), it’s become a life-long opportunity and a responsibility. The one person ultimately responsible for your career development is you. Who else can answer the soul-searching questions that pinpoint the difference between a smile and a cringe as you face each morning, between a peaceful night’s sleep and a fitful rest as you reflect on the day’s work, or between a mere paycheck and a passion?
Don’t just Read about it, Get up and Do it
There are career counselors, psychologists, specialists, books, workshops, and so on, to help people figure this out. I’ve often referred people to What Color Is Your Parachute?, by Nelson Bolles. First published in 1970, revised and updated in 2008, and still in print through publisher Ten Speed Press, it’s not a traditional job-searching book. Rather, it is a tool to help the reader identify which of their life experiences have been most meaningful. Key insights emerge to identify one’s passions and to help determine how and where to put those passions to use.
Books like Bolles’s have lots of ideas and tips, but they also include all kinds of exercises for figuring out what things we want to do with our time, where we want to do them, and who we want to do them for and with. Unfortunately, the typical modus operandi is to read the exercises, which is nowhere near as helpful as actually doing them. That’s a problem. It is too easy to be lazy and seek out someone else to tell us how to have a successful career. It doesn’t happen that way. Far too often an employee has asked me to develop a career plan for him or her. Impossible! When the employee first decides what he or she wants, then I am delighted to support him or her in carving out a pathway. But I can’t do it for an employee any more than I can do it for my own children.
As a group, investment advisors tend to be a pretty passionate lot. They find great personal and professional satisfaction in their daily work and in their careers. But let’s focus on your employees.
Unless you are in the minority, you can probably remember when you didn’t have a clue about how you enjoyed spending your time. On top of that, the early stage of your career–as is true for most of us–may have been tumultuous, perhaps including marriage and kids. All of this is likely going on now for your employees who are in their 20s and early 30s. So a paycheck is typically not simply important for them, it’s critical. The fine balance for their development is to determine the right direction at the right pace of advancement and to simultaneously address financial concerns.
How You Can Help
No matter the employee’s age or tenure, acknowledge that you can’t define career development for anyone other than for yourself. Each individual needs to find her own passion. But once someone has done that, you certainly can help employees create their path.
You probably have a two to 50-person organization. However, it’s likely that you don’t have the option of allocating specific resources to counseling, testing, and training. But you do have incredibly valuable assets to offer your enlightened entrepreneurial employees. Following are some examples of what you can do to help them.
Offer unique projects that provide employees the opportunity to learn and apply new skills. Employees in small organizations can have many times the opportunity to pursue new projects than the more bureaucratic Fortune 500 companies allow.
Sponsor employees for FINRA exams or provide the three years of guided experience for an individual to use the CFP credential.