Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Alexandra Levit.
I recently chatted with my friend and colleague Laurie Ruettimann, who has spent decades as a human resources and workforce thought leader and has brought her wisdom and candor to the new book Betting on You: Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career.
Alexandra: In the book, you talk a lot about advocating for yourself and your career. Why is this critical, and what’s the #1 mistake you see people make as they proceed in their careers?
Laurie: When I was new to Corporate America, I thought the purpose of work was to show up, dazzle my bosses with excellent skills, and get paid a lot of money for my efforts. It didn’t take long to learn that work is all about solving problems. If you solve complex challenges, you ascend the career ladder faster and earn more money.
Because I had student debt to pay, I threw myself into my job. I learned the hard way that peak performance requires a commitment to continuous learning, relentless focus on well‐being, and the self‐confidence to take risks with your professional life. Nobody can do anything remarkable at work if they are mentally and physically exhausted and afraid to jeopardize their paychecks.
What makes career pivoting challenging in the 21st century? What are some of the greatest opportunities?
We are living in a time of economic insecurity, and I’m not just talking about COVID‐19. First, most traditional careers still make you start from the bottom. So, if you want to move from a role in human resources to nursing, you essentially have to start over with your education and certifications. Sure, there are accelerated programs available in some industries. But a pivot is often time‐intensive and expensive. If you have family or financial obligations, it’s an unrealistic burden to bear. Also, automation and digitization are rapidly transforming specific sectors of our economy. It’s hard to pivot when the future is so uncertain.
The good news is that we’re living in the golden age of learning. You can attend the “University of the Internet” and research the heck out of your desired career path. It’s also possible to take free online courses or connect with industry thought leaders on various social media platforms before investing your time and money. With a bit of time and energy, the future can be less risky for those thinking about making a career move.
Do women still have it much tougher in the business world? What are things career‐driven women can do to even the playing field?
Yes, it’s more challenging to be a woman in business. What’s more frustrating is that we’ve been talking about equal pay for equal work for a long time. I’m not sure career‐driven women can level the playing field, nor is it their responsibility. This effort falls squarely on the shoulders of HR. I’m thrilled that total rewards technology is finally getting its time in the spotlight. Using artificial intelligence and integrating machine learning into a robust HCM suite, it’s now possible to analyze the entire employee lifecycle and glean insights on the employee experience in a new way.
For example, we no longer have to wait for someone to submit an annual employee survey and tell us that they’re disengaged and upset by discrimination, pay inequality, bias, or lack of belonging. We can see employee data in real time, compare it to overall trends, and address those concerns proactively. And we no longer have to wait for anybody, man or woman, to tell us that they’re not earning enough or progressing fast enough in their careers. HR can know about an employee’s obstacles and barriers before they even know themselves — and we can fix it. How cool is that?
How can HR reps and managers better support people in their professional development goals?
For so long, professional development was a company‐driven endeavor focused on training workers to improve their current roles. If a manager was progressive, maybe he threw in some classes to help an employee get a promotion.
Thankfully, HR and managers have slowly accepted the radical idea that investing in a worker’s future career path means greater productivity today. That’s because the happiest and most engaged employees are learning, growing, and thriving.
No job is forever. Workers won’t stay with your company for their entire careers. But they’ll do a better job today if you create a learning plan that focuses on the future regardless of where they might be employed.
A BIG thank you to Laurie for sharing her thoughts with me. Whether you want to get ahead yourself, or help others get ahead in the most effective way, Laurie can help. Check out Betting on You and her other career resources on her website.