‘Mug’ Your Career ‘Smug’

Text: Alan JONES

A well-planned, progressive and rewarding career can be immensely satisfying, give you adequate monetary rewards, and allow you to grow as a person. But, a ‘career’ can also be a strait-jacket.

The big question is: are you adding anything new to your ‘career kit’ by undertaking new tasks, assuming new responsibilities and developing new skills which will enable you to achieve your next objective? Or, is your career moribund to the point of stagnation, investing nothing for the future and contributing not one jot to your collection of transferable skills, which would be attractive to another employer?

Inability to give any meaningful answer to the above questions is a sure-sign that your personal career management has been non-existent. In my experience, many job-seekers display a virtually total lack of awareness of their skills, achievements and the relevance of their experiences to the marketplace.


When did you last look at your CV? A typical response to that question is along the lines of “What CV — I’ve been working for the same company for ten years, why do I need a CV?” This brings us to the first law of personal career management.

Your CV is your passport to the future and you never know when you might be asked to travel, regardless of whether you want to go.

There seems to be a general misunderstanding that the CV is merely something one hastily cobbles together when looking for a job. Wrong. It is your sales literature and should be permanently in existence and updated as your skills, experiences and achievements grow. It is an inventory of what you have done, which, in turn, is a handy guide to potential buyers — an indication of what you can do.

Don’t suffer from career complacency — if your CV is not growing then neither are you. Obviously, we cannot live our lives in a permanent state of motion. Most of us need an element of stability. An employee who is always moving on is not necessarily an attractive proposition to employers. But, it is a question of balance. Employees who outstay their welcome far outnumber those who continually hop from one employer to another — we are certainly not ‘career gypsies’ by nature.

Statistically, even if your career is moribund you still will not voluntarily move outside your company — you will stay in the hope that ‘things will improve,’ you will have vague notions about the situation ‘not being too bad’ and will rationalise that you have a reasonable lifestyle, so ‘why rock the boat?’ But, just as necessity is the mother of invention, so is inertia — the child of complacency. Only you can decide whether you are a ‘sit back and see what turns up,’ or an ‘I’d better do something’ type of person.


In the past, career complacency has been more endemic and insidious in the public sector than in the corporate world. This is because the needs of public sector employers changed relatively little over time. The absence of competition and profit incentives eased the danger of jobs becoming surplus to requirements and ‘careers’ being cut short by redundancies.

This invited employees to become complacent about their careers because even when they reached a ‘plateau’ they had job security. This also led to a kind of Faustian compromise which ultimately became self-destructive — careers were [and, still are] cut short through lack of personal progress… but the employee remained.

Times have changed. It is no longer a given that public sector jobs will be a ‘job for life’ and the pendulum is swinging the other way. Whatever the problems of such changes, one certain outcome is that public sector employees will be given the freedom to manage their own careers — career responsibility will be handed back to its owner. Initially, this freedom may not be gratefully received, but ultimately it will be beneficial to both employer and employee.

We are now more likely to see vastly increased freedom of movement in the workforce between private and public sectors — if for no other reason than that the two entities will be indistinguishable. Individuals caught up in this maelstrom of change may initially feel that their careers have been destroyed. But, if a positive approach is adopted, far from being destroyed, such careers will, in fact, have been liberated.

ALAN JONES is a career counselor of international repute. He’s coached hundreds of job-seekers and just as many who are culturally inclined to be respectful to a fault. They have gained much empowerment from his counsel — while vastly improving their work performance and career success. Jones has published five books, including Winning at InterviewHow to Write a Winning CV, and How to Build a Successful Career, all notable best-sellers. He lives in Wiltshire, UK.