Shaping our careers

Back in 2007 the McKinsey Group conducted research in factors that shape careers.

About 40% of both men and women surveyed indicated that a pivotal event that impacted upon their careers happened when they were in their early 30’s, eight to ten years after entering the workforce. Often that pivotal event was associated with a new role.

Some of the findings make interesting reading.

For men the element most common in pivotal events was a realisation they had a passion for the sector they are engaged in. For women the most common element is a realisation they are not leading the life they desire.

Looking at factors that contributed to pivotal events, men and women equally, at 59% of respondents, indicated they had experienced significant change in management of organsiational structure. Some 20% more women than men cited discrimination as a contributing factor to a pivotal event!

39% of respondents indicated their employer could have done more to make the work environment supportative of career development. 34% indicated their employer could have provided more support by providing positive feedback.

A clear 45% of respondents felt their career moves were helped by their spouse or partners support. Which implies that 55% felt they would have achieved the same outcome regardless of whether supported by partners. The largest support networks are a combination of family, friends and colleagues in the existing workplace. External support from mentors, coaches, HR and people outside the organisation is negligible and of minor value.

As a result of a pivotal event, 38%, equal men and women were likely to take a new position in a new company and in a new sector. Representing a significant brain drain from their existing sectors.

Women appear more proactive in response to a pivotal event. 37% of men are more likely to accept another role in the same company, whereas women are more likely to set higher goals and career objectives, engage in ongoing study, start their own business, seek external coaching or mentoring, realign work/life balance.

For 90% of respondents, the impact of a pivotal event upon their career was greater job satisfaction, a higher intellectual interest in their work. 83% reported the impact was career advancement and 75% reported higher remuneration.

So what is our initial impressions? People shouldn’t fear pivotal events leading to career change as when that change process is managed in a positive and proactive manner the outcome is often overwhelmingly positive. Men need to loosen up, there are so many options and career paths available. Okay you need to pay the mortgage but be sure that is the reason for your choices and not your ego.

Employers on the other hand continue to burn talent and intellectual property by appearing to take a cookie cutter approach to the development of talent, in some instances. Of the 38% of people that leave your organisation as a result of a pivotal event, the majority moved on and into executive level roles with another organisation. Your loss, their gain.

Those are my thoughts for the day
John Coxon
Taking you from frontline manager to CEO


About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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