• Gustavo Serbia

You Remain Responsible For YOUR Career Development & Growth

In 2016, I shared an article proposing that the employer is not responsible for our career growth and development. Most of the comments from readers agreed with my premise. There were, however, some dissenting voices, whom I think missed the most crucial point I was trying to make: it wasn’t about employers, it was about individuals. It is now 2020, and I still insist the employer is not responsible. We are. Let me add and expand on a few points.

Coronavirus = An Impact, An Obstacle

Throughout our careers, we will encounter a few other “coronavirus type” situations that impact us and put obstacles in front of us. Some situations will have a significant impact, like the current pandemic, while others may come with minor setbacks. Many of the reasons why we are not where we want to be or do not achieve our career aspirations is not because of a pandemic, or anything close to it. It is not even because of our employers. It is because we don’t plan, we don’t dedicate time to review and analyze where we are, what is happening around us, and how we prepare ourselves that we have a greater difficulty is some situations. Ask the 20-year veteran who has been working for the same employer for the last ten years and is now unemployed. He/She has not updated his/her resume and has not applied or interviewed with another employer. Is he/she ready to tackle this process? He/She has been out of the game and not in touch with what is happening and now finds himself/herself smack in the middle of being unemployed, asking, “what do I do now?”

This is why the first step to owning our careers is to see ourselves as free agents, independent contractors providing a service, and that service has an expiration date.

Employee vs. Free-Agent/Independent Contractor

Most of us were raised to become labor; to produce for others. Regardless of the job we hold, we were raised to land a job. This makes us dependent on someone giving it to us. However, some of us are more dependent than others, and expecting the employer to provide us with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities we want, I believe, it is shortsighted and prone to higher risks; it exposes us to a greater level of disappointment, frustrations, and obstacles.

In reality, we are free-agents with the ability to provide our services to whomever and whenever we desire. This is why the on-demand and gig economies continue to increase. Now more than ever, thinking and proceeding like independent contractors is possible and sustainable for many of us. Yes, we are still dependent on someone hiring us, but seeing ourselves as free-agents changes our mindset; it forces us to be more proactive about the situations around us, about learning and staying informed, and about exploring and seeking new opportunities.


The world is now our competition; it has been for a few years now. There are so many talented individuals out there who can do what we do, and perhaps they can do it better, faster, cheaper. Furthermore, with remote work catching fire, that person on the other side of the country or the world has as much of a shot as we do. No barriers, no relocation to take place.

Access to Information

With the internet of things, the democratization of learning, and the accessibility we find today, we are in the best position possible to remain relevant, active, and engaged in our learning and development. We must take advantage of the oyster that is the internet and the access to information that many of us have to remain up-to-date with all possible things affecting us.

What do employers do?

When hard times come, some employers do whatever it takes to retain their employees. Other employers (right, wrong, or indifferent) let go of employees. We need to be prepared to possibly take on more work as the result of others being let go, change industries (ask those in hospitality), or even start our own business. Are we prepared for any of these situations? If we rely solely on what our employers offer, when times get tough, we may find ourselves behind the eight ball.

I recognize that some employers do not like the idea of us considering other opportunities or moonlighting somewhere else. Their expectations are for us to remain loyal to them in exchange for employment. However, this is where I challenge employers to reconsider their offering and the experience they create for employees if they want loyalty. If companies wish to attract and retain solid performers, and the managers want to build great teams, then employers must invest time, effort, and money to develop their workforce and improve the employee experience as much as they look to do so for the customer experience, profits, or cost reductions. Unfortunately, that is for the employer to decide, and it is outside of our control.

As a leader whose job has been to engage the workforce and improve the employee experience, I am committed to delivering on the growth and development of those I support. I want to help my team members achieve their career aspirations. I take it as my responsibility to get them to where they want to go. Because of this belief is why I encourage each of you to rethink your career growth and development approach. As the individuals we are, we are in a better position when we see our career growth and development as our responsibility, not of others, including our employers. This is the best advice I can give anyone, especially to those who still expect the employer to do it for them.

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