This is the final installment of our six-part series targeted to provide the framework for building a successful career management plan. The first five segments explored building the foundation for a plan and four pillars to help you achieve your career goals. As 2012 comes into view, it's a great time to consider a career management plan. An effective plan will optimize the application of technical and relational skills within your current work environment as well as provide a solid network and foundation if circumstances require you to launch an external job search.
In October, we discussed building a personal business case utilizing the components of your plan for reaching higher levels on the career ladder. If you have diligently constructed the plan and executed it properly, you'll maximize the amount of professional equity possible. In this last installment, we'll discuss maximizing personal equity in the workplace.
Maximize the Return on Your Investment
I once supervised a team of 16 colleagues, 12 who had at least 25 years with the company and several with more than 30 years of service. This demographic in a work team was rather common at one time. Joining a company was once like being welcomed into an extended family. The corporate dinosaur age is now in the past, and times have changed.
You must factor the range of time you're likely to spend with your current firm into your career management plan. Mergers, consolidation, cost cutting, and hard economic times have dramatically changed the corporate culture. Take a look at your work group, and calculate the average years of service under the current corporate name. The average will most likely be less than 10 and closer to five.
You're creating a personal business case to drive your success. Therefore, the path for achieving the plan should be customized to fit your individual goals and circumstances while optimizing the return on investment for the portion of your life you give to the company.
Taking Inventory and Planning Action
Maximizing the return on your investment of time requires a deep and holistic understanding of the available resources to build personal equity and fuel career success. Fuel for career success comes in the form of both monetary contributions and company-sponsored programs that will provide avenues and data to develop the key pillars of your career management plan.
A deep, holistic inventory will reveal a surprising number of resources to enable your planning. Let's bucket the inventory into five categories as follows: equity opportunities, educational assistance, professional development, personal development, and exit assistance.
Equity opportunities: These are the company-sponsored programs that build the monetary portion of your personal equity. The most obvious would be a 401(k) plan with a company match for a portion of your contribution. Make a maximum contribution to this program as early as possible, and learn the vesting rules for the amount the company contributes. Many companies require a number of service years before their portion vests to the employee.
Some companies offer a benefit that allows employees to purchase stock at a discount price. This program could be a monthly, quarterly, or annual opportunity, and it usually requires an enrollment action. Maximize your contribution to this program, including automatic dividend reinvestment, as the discount and dividend are instant equity gains. Find out if your company awards stock options or restricted stock grants and what the rules are for earning an award.
Many companies have annual bonus programs. Ask around the office, or talk with Human Resources to learn the rules for pay-outs. Often, earning an "exceeds" or "outstanding" performance rating in your job will increase the bonus amount significantly.
Educational assistance: Continuous learning is a major platform within your career management plan. …