Because many of us don’t consciously manage a career, most of us don’t think we have a set of tools at hand. When you think of career management skills, you probably think of skills we pull out, polish up, and put to work when the time comes to tinker with the job market–like interviewing, resume writing, or networking skills. Job hunting’s most important tools? Resource management skills. You use them every day, or you can.
What are your resources? How do you manage them? Resources, for this purpose, include time, people and organizations, information, money, and the physical environment. Everything you do in pursuit of your employment objective is going to involve managing one or several of those things. The better you manage them, the better the outcome.
What do we mean, manage resources? It means that you first recognize that you have a finite supply of everything, including things like your friends’ goodwill, so you have to make sure that you budget, that you leverage and deploy whatever you have appropriately and effectively, and that you monitor your resource balance to make sure 1.) you are treating all of your resources with respect, 2.) you are not about to suddenly run out of what you need, just when you need it, and 3.) that you are replenishing your supply.
What does resource management look like?
Time management is a pretty time honored concept. Most folks think of it in terms of days, weeks, months, as in your weekly planner, daily to-do list, monthly or quarterly goals. But what about time management in the sense of your youth, your high earning years, or your middle age? In a job and career sense you have only so many temporal hiding places, only so many chances to work abroad, stay put until the kids finish high school, or sit tight until the right opening presents itself.
Information management is not just information technology. Managing information includes how much you share about yourself, how much you keep to yourself for lots of good reasons. Information is what you need before you start networking, not what you get when you network, thoughyou may stumble over useful tidbits from time to time. How you gather and use information, how you organize and communicate what you know, how you process–that’s all information management.
Physical environment: your nonliving and nonvirtual resources–your phone, your computer, your home, your car, and the like. Usually, it’s the physical environment that trips you up when you least expect it. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you backed up your contacts file? Ran your antivirus software? Dumped your garbage files? Or–have you investigated that leaky tire on the car, dry cleaned the interview outfit, or shined your shoes? How about your paper files? Business cards? Workspace? all organized?
Money management It’s a biggie, no doubt about it. Include in the management of your funds items like your frequent flyer miles, your housing costs, your financial decisions. If, for example, you find yourself unable to take advantage of an opportunity in New Jersey becasue you are figuratively underwater in your home in Florida, we’d call that a money management effect on your career. The point of conserving your resources is so that they will be there to meet your needs, whatever they are and whenever they happen. You can’t stretch them past the breaking point, or fake them.
People and organizational resources– relationships. Oh, are these ever important. If you have left a trail of dead or broken bodies in your wake, you will soon find how unimportant were some of those points you just had to make, or arguments you had to win. Career-wise, nothing is more important than people who like you and want you to succeed. I think of a family, for example, as an organization. A family requires management, and doing this well will spare you the grief that comes from doing whatever feels good and expecting it will pay off job-wise. It won’t.
Usually, we manage relationships, not people themselves, and if you take good care of your relationships you will find that they are there for you over many years and more than one career. That means holding up your end of the friendship, being there for people, keeping the relationship alive and well.
But who is the most important resource in your career? You are. And as such, you have an obligation to manage yourself, to stay healthy, learn endlessly, and grow with determination. Managing yourself is the hardest thing you will do–it does take discipline, it does require self control and it does involve making difficult choices when you’d rather make the simple one and just do what you feel like doing. The payoff is far away and the results are not easy to see right away. But self discipline is the tool you can count on all the time–once you have it.