Over the next few weeks, we will present Managing Your Career.  The series will cover topics related to career planning and management, resume building, interviewing, Networking and job search techniques.   

Many of you might consider it a foreign concept to manage your careers with the same attention you give other aspects of your lives.  Due to all the other things going on in your lives, you likely do not make your jobs a priority until the unexpected happens (e.g., layoffs, missed promotions, demotions). Also, you may just assume that if you do your jobs, everything will take care of itself.  If your positions require additional training, you expect your employers will provide whatever is necessary.  In most cases, that assumption is valid when referencing “required” training for job functions.  The question is: Does that job training prepare you with marketable skills to survive outside of your organization?   

A foundational step to managing your career is consciously transitioning your mindset from focusing on your “job” to establishing a “defined career path.”  But, it is first essential that you understand your current situation.  In general, most people usually fall into three workforce categories.  For the sake of illustration, we will use swimming analogies to narrate the next few points.   With an objective assessment, most individuals find themselves either “Drowning,” “Treading,” or “Swimming.” 

Drowning represents the bottom 20% of the workforce.  Individuals are typically struggling in their jobs with limited to no opportunities available internally or externally.  Usually, people in this category are struggling to keep up and maintain their current positions and have limited opportunities in their near future.  They are disgruntled and frequently complain about their jobs and the lack of opportunities.  Individuals have limited marketable skills and often rationalize their lack of performance by assigning blame to others.  General characteristics include:

  • Out of date technology skills
  • In the same role 10+ years or more
  • No job-specific certifications
  • No additional education, training, and professional development
  • Networking is limited to the people their department

Treading accounts for 60% and represents the most significant portion of the workforce.  This group is classified as treading because their careers are stagnant.  Individuals in this category are staying afloat and going through the motions.  They are not improving their skill sets and seeking opportunities to advance their development.  Most of these individuals are just happy to be in the water (i.e., employed) and view themselves as having jobs versus careers.  General characteristics include:

  • Complacent
  • In the same role 7-10 years
  • Certifications and training are no longer relevant to the current market
  • Known in their departments as the people who do their jobs
  • Networking is limited to the people in their companies


Swimming is the final category and represents the top 20% of the workforce.  As the name suggests, swimming references individuals, who are moving forward and progressing toward destinations and goals.  These individuals are proactively managing their careers and consistently seeking opportunities for professional development to expand their spheres of influence within their functional domains.  People in this category are the market leaders and are considered valuable resources and contributors.  They have career goals and are actively following plans.  Internal and external opportunities tend to find them.   General characteristics include:

  • Knowledgeable of the current market trends
  • Usually change roles every 2 to 3 years (most of the time at the request of management)
  • Certifications, training, and professional development are relevant and in demand
  • Frequently asked to participate on projects and leadership teams 
  • Networking – known internally and externally for their functional areas of expertise
  • Currently on career plans

Many may find objectively evaluating your classification a challenging exercise.  It can be difficult to assess your current situation without unwarranted excuses and unchecked accountability.   In most cases, it is best to find a mentor to guide you through a self-assessment.  When identifying a mentor, you have to be careful to find someone who will provide honest and supportive feedback.  At times, people select close friends who allow their personal feelings to impede their objective feedback, which can make them enablers to mediocrity.  Regardless of the titles, whether you identify with being behind or stagnant, understanding and accepting your current situation is a critical first step in establishing a plan of improvement.  In part 2 of our Managing Your Career series, we will review measures to improve your classification and develop a process to starting a career plan. 

At b2 Talent Solutions, our goal is to assist individuals in navigating their careers and supporting their professional goals.  We believe in helping individuals maximize their performance to reach their full potential.