Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Self-management: the new deal-breaker skill

I'm fascinated by the myriad of skills today's worker must possess and utilize on a daily basis. 
There are the employability skills defined as the skills, trade, or credential learned and earned in order to do a particular profession.  There are also the sustainability skills defined as the way a person accomplishes work through character traits, personality preferences or a code of conduct required to do business.  Employability is the "what" of a job.  Sustainability is the "how" one does the job.
For example, if I'm an accountant with a CPA designation (employability skill) but lack ethical character traits of honesty and fairness (sustainability skills) it will likely result in being unemployable (unless matched to a company that cheats).

We can deduce the critical employability skills a company demands based on occupational requirements for the job.  However, what becomes difficult to quantify is the sustainability skills that help a person stay employed.  Ever heard an employer say, "If we can find the right person that fits our culture and team, we can always train for the job"?  Translation: Employability skills really matter to us but sustainability skills are even more important.

So, what are the top sustainability skills most needed in today's job market?  The answer may surprise you depending on your age...seriously.  It is a demographic shift in behavior that is obvious in the workplace.

Employers (especially if the hiring manager is over fifty) would indicate certain skills are blatantly lacking in the younger workforce...but are they?

Let's take a look at the one skill many employers indicate is missing:

The skill of self-management

The simplest definition of this skill is the ability to accomplish a task, outcome or goal without excess feedback from others.  It is the proficiency to accomplish something without a boss or colleague holding one's hand.  In addition, there is another stealth element at work. Underneath the surface the worker who lacks self-management tends to have an excessive need for praise when a task, outcome or goal is accomplished.  The intense need for kudos from a boss or constant interaction to make sure one's work is stellar is annoying and time consuming.

Employers tell me that a lack of self-management is the basis for why people have been fired. The employer spent so much time trying to pacify one high maintenance individual to the detriment of everyone else resulting in toxic levels of apathy and disengagement. 

Self management skills are reflected in the following positive behaviors:

1. The ability to follow instructions carefully.
2. The confidence to solve a problem using creative solutions instead of defaulting to a whining mode.
3. The ability to make a decision and execute with follow through and completion.
4. The assured attitude of doing a task without the need for outside or external reward when finished.

Here is a quick self-management checklist for you:
  • Minimal supervision needed from my boss
  • I seek internal reward and intrinsic value of accomplishing work
  • I refrain from complaining in the workplace
  • I can work as an independent contributor and team-player
  • I listen more than I speak
  • Don't bring personal life issues into the workplace
Typically (though not always) the younger the worker, the higher the level of needing to improve self-management.  Conversely, the typical mature worker may have the opposite issue of not asking for feedback or seeking input from others enough. 

If you're starting out in the world of work, developing self-management attributes will be critical to your success.  Don't get in the habit of seeking praise and recognition for a job well done.  Find the reward in yourself.  You'll learn quickly employers don't have a treasure chest of treats, stickers and a pat on the back.  It's nice when it occurs, but do your work, make a contribution and then go to the next assignment.
In essence, what I'm describing is a professional with an innate ability to work without a lot of drama and fanfare.  That is the skill of self-management. 

In the next post, we'll look at another top skill employers are looking for: strong work ethic.  That upcoming post promises to be a generational lightning rod.

1 comment:

  1. Carla, I feel that self management is a much needed skill in the workforce. I think that we live in a do it for me society, where a big number of people want the job but need you told hold thier hands along the way. Alot of the younger generation don't listen because they are too busy saying why they can't do the job. The older generation misses out on the listening part because they feel they know what to do because this is not the first time they have been in the game.

    Great Post! look forward to the one on ethics.