Get and keep your career on the right track: successful career management demands a proactive approach; this author has just the ticket for you.

Author:Turregano, Clemson G.

What track is your career on? Are you on the main line to f success? Sidetracked? Or rapidly moving toward derailment? Understanding what track you are on and how to manage your career development speed and destination will help you avoid derailing and keep your career train moving toward your planned destination.

As a financial management (FM) professional, you are familiar with making the FM "train" run on time. You may pay a great deal of attention to the details of your position and keeping everything moving smoothly down the line. Do you pay as much attention to your own career track? Are you spending so much time keeping the other trains moving that you forget to make sure your own train is moving where you want to go and at the speed you want to get there?

Leadership, business, and management books share the common thought that" ... individuals who take the initiative managing their careers are most likely to be successful. ... These individuals are more self-aware, develop more extensive contacts of networks, and engage in more continuous learning exercises. These activities lead to greater perceptions of success and marketability." (1)

This article offers you insight on ways to be more proactive with your career by sharing three key aspects of career management: determining the right career track, explaining the importance of developmental assignments, and noting potential career "derailers." The article concludes with insights to help keep your career on the track that is right for you.

How Do I Determine the Right Track for Me?

There is no one solution to career management. Every person takes a different track based on his or her desires, destinations, experiences, and personal abilities. To find out which track is right for you, summon your courage and ask some key questions:

* Where am I with my career?

* Where do I want to go in my career?

* What do I need to get there?

Where am I with my career?

The question engages self-assessment. What are your strengths and weaknesses? You might want to do a personality or behavioral assessment (for example, Army Knowledge Online makes available a good 360-degree assessment), find a mentor to talk with, or ask your direct reports. Gaining a good understanding of your strengths in your current position will give you the starting point and some important information on where you might want to go.

Where do I want to go in my career?

In answering this question, you should develop a career vision statement that outlines the destination for your career train. Answering this question is not about the journey it's about the destination. In a 2008 survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, 75 percent of the 146 participating senior-level executives believed developing and communicating a strong and compelling vision is the most important factor for effective Leadership. (2) Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People clearly states that to be successful, one should "begin with the end in mind."

Through my work with executives, I've noted that the difficult part of vision creation is the self-discipline and introspection required to think seriously about where the person wants to go. You want that vision statement to be as clear and unambiguous as possible. For example, which one of the following statements is clearer? In a few years I hope I am a Senior Executive Service candidate. or In five years I will be in training for a Senior Executive Service position.

Obviously it is the second one because it very clearly outlines the destination. This statement can serve as a guide to the development of the strategy and experiences you must pursue to turn ideas into reality. Here are some other key points to consider.

The first element in your vision, or destination, statement should state a time period. Identify a time element that works for you and is something that you can manage. Make it an / will statement; again, this creates the challenge you need to meet the goals that you set. For example:

* In ten years, I will. ...

* When I retire, I will. ...


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