Is your career managing you or are you managing your career?

Have you wrestled with trying to decide where to go next in your career? Maybe you have struggled with knowing whether the company or role that you are pursuing is a good fit? This week’s podcast is with Launi Skinner, the new President of 1-800-GOT-JUNK and one of the speakers at The 2008 Canadian Career Summit. Launi recently left as President of North America for Starbucks. She had joined Starbucks when there were 15 stores in Canada, and was eventually leading 6,000 stores in North America. Launi has observed, as a leader in great organizations and in managing her own career, that "The person that cares most about your career, is you. Your company’s role is to provide the environment and tools to enable you to succeed. It is up to you to maximize your own opportunities". Reaching your potential in your career doesn’t happen by accident, you need to take smart action.

With a strong talent for numbers and a desire to get her career on the right track, Launi went to business school and ended up earning her CGA designation. Her first role out of school was with Mohawk Oil. Over the next 7 years she was involved in a variety of areas within this small company. Mohawk offered her great leadership and a supportive environment to develop and evolve her career. "I discovered that as much as I enjoyed managing the numbers in our business, it was leading and coaching people that I truly loved". Sensing that she was ready for the next challenge in her career, she connected with her network and joined The Bread Basket as the regional manager for B.C. She was responsible for 17 stores covering a wide variety of areas from real estate, to hiring, to pricing and purchasing new products for the stores. She sensed early on that the fit wasn’t quite right for her and she again reached to her network. This time at the 10 year mark in her career, she started to truly understand that the role and the culture of the company played a part in her satisfaction with her career. Speaking with a mentor of hers, he mentioned a new company called Starbucks that had recently entered the Vancouver market. Launi decided to visit one of the stores. "Candidly, at the time I didn’t like coffee, but there was this magic moment when I entered the store that I had a completely different retail experience. It was clever and smart and I really liked what it was. When I had my very first latte, I liked it!"

Through her network, she approached the company, and over the next 4 months she went through a series of interviews. She ended up getting the role at Starbucks and stayed for 15 years with the organization through a series of progressive moves and larger roles. She eventually became the President of Starbucks North America. Speaking of Starbucks, "They were a great company. They allowed us to evolve and try different areas within the company. Even as a small company, they were very supportive in helping employees to evolve within their career. They had a great succession plan to help people progress in their future development".

I think one of the keys to Launi’s success wasn’t her talent – many people are talented at what they do. What Launi did was continually define what she wanted to do with her career and didn’t let the market, money or career momentum decide for her. She also understood early on that you are in a partnership with your organization when managing your career. Like all partnerships, you both have responsibilities. Great companies like Starbucks and 1-800-GOT-JUNK understand their role in helping employees to develop and evolve in their career. Great employees, like Launi, understand their role in being really clear about knowing their strengths and creating a set of criteria to measure opportunity with. Launi then took this knowledge and went to the market to find opportunity and organizations that she thought could be a good fit.

Here are 6 key questions to use to help you manage and evolve in your career:

  1. What do I want out of my career?
  2. Does the role I am looking at fit my strengths?
  3. Will I learn and grow in the role personally and as a professional?
  4. Do I respect the leaders and the culture of the company?
  5. Where would I go from here if I take this position?
  6. What is the worst risk for me if it doesn’t work out in this role?

The process of asking these questions will help you. Your ultimate decision making tool is your gut – listen to it. Launi’s final piece of advice for evolving in your career is, "If you take a role and you know that it is going to add value to your skill-set, don’t be so concerned about the title. Ask the questions, will you like the role, will it add to your skill-set and will you become a stronger person? If the answer is yes, then good things will generally happen for you and your career".

Looking for an event to learn how to manage your career more effectively? I am excited to announce The 2008 Canadian Career Summit. Join Launi Skinner, Andrea Garson, Vice President of HR from Workopolis and myself. Learn the latest job search strategies, discover how to make great career decisions and network with like-minded professionals in diverse industries. The Summit is being held Wednesday, Oct 15th from 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM in Ottawa at The National Arts Centre and Thursday, Oct 16th from 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM in Toronto at the Glenn Gould Theater. You can also join our free, 1 hour teleworkshop based upon my book in my book Get the Right Job Right Now! from the comfort and convenience of your own desk. It can make a great impact on your career. Looking for more confidential one-on-one support? Book an initial consultation with myself. One hour can change your future.

Evolving, along the road with you!


PS. I am giving away a pair of tickets to both the Toronto and Ottawa events. Send me an e-mail on your thoughts on how your career has evolved (alan@CareerJoy.com).