Nikos BOZIONELOS: A Secret Master Plan for Your Job Hunting

Source:emlyon business schoolDate:2019-09-27

Sustainable career development planning can make you more at ease with your job when the workplace is always full of fierce competition and great challenges. Nikos BOZIONELOS, Professor of International HRM, Organizational Behaviour & Leadership Director of the Global HR and Organization Innovation Centre (GHOIC) DBA Advisor at emlyon business school, has given his professional advice and guidance on multiple hot issues of career planning during our interview done recently.

A job or a master degree for an undergraduate? How to do career planning more efficiently and realize your sustainable career?  Can you optimize your career planning even when on vacations?

Sustainable Career -- Win-Win Scenario for Employees, Employers and the Government

Sustainable careers are those in which workers are able to maintain in the long-term the following:

Employability: The ability to be employed or to find new employment if this becomes necessary. Employability is achieved with constant learning and the capacity to be mentally flexible.

Job performance: To perform well requires up-to-date knowledge and skills, creativity and psychological resources such as optimism and perseverance. Job performance is important for workers, but especially for employers and the country.

Work-life balance: This means ability to pursue non-work interests, to “rest”, and to accommodate personal needs (for example, time off work for personal matters, such as family and personal development). Work-life balance is helpful for everyone. For the worker, for the society (for example, being able to set time aside to help one’s parents, family or other important-to-the person people helps maintain social harmony and a humane culture), and for the employer (work-life imbalance brings resentment and burnout for employees, which in turn harm motivation and health, and ultimately job performance. Furthermore, ability to pursue interests that are not directly relevant to work may indirectly lead to improvements in performance – for example, non-work hobbies may increase creativity.

Health: Health is critical, both physical and mental: (a) Lack of physical health makes it difficult to perform well in a consistent manner; (b) Impaired mental health restricts the ability to deal with demanding and challenging issues in work and personal life; (c) Imperfect health imposes burdens to both employers and the State; (d) Imperfect health reduces the capacity to maintain employability; (e) Lowered health deducts from the ability to enjoy what our current long lives have to offer. Apart from its inherent value, not enjoying life makes people less motivated to invest in learning and expend effort at work, creating a vicious cycle.

These elements above are easy to mention, but not easy to achieve. In realizing sustainable careers, employees need do their own part, while employers and the government respectively play an important role of this process. All stakeholders should jointly work to achieve sustainable careers.

Simply, for example, workers trying themselves to lead sustainable careers without the government and employers pulling their own weight the outcome will - in most cases - be doomed. Hence, all three stakeholders must work in concert:

  • Government: Governments must invest –working together with firms - in lifelong education and development opportunities for citizens, impose or keep in place employment legislation that does not compromise the sense of security for employees, and invest in support systems - such as a good healthcare system and a fair benefits system.
  • Employers: Employers must not hesitate to provide employees opportunities for development, employment security, and support to deal with personal issues that are non-work related but affect performance and employability nonetheless. This is to the benefit of employers in both the short- and especially the long-term: we know that employers who offer opportunities for learning, for advancement, and employment security receive much higher commitment and output from their employees in return.
  • Workers: Individuals who are part of the workforce must understand that, apart from the employer and the government, it is also their own responsibility to invest in their own employability, to be flexible, and to be supportive towards both their employers and the State. To reiterate, those three stakeholders must work closely together and in concert – sustainable careers are to the interest of all.

The Secret Keys to Optimizing Career Planning

Planning one's career is becoming more difficult with the increase in the rate (and unpredictability) of change. Nevertheless, there are certain practical guidelines that if followed optimize the probabilities of a successful (and sustainable) career:

  • Degree education is not less important than working experience. Starting from the beginning, formal education ("a degree") is important. However, there are limits to formal education. Simply accumulation of "degrees" is inefficient from a career success perspective. What is also important is acquisition of work experience. Hence, it is best to "spread" formal education around long intervals. For example, there is no point to study towards a Master's degree immediately after the undergraduate degree. Ideally, one should work for at least five years between the first degree and a postgraduate degree.
  • Do not choose the subject of your degree simply because you "like" it. Chose a subject on the basis of the following: (i) a subject that will increase your chances to find a job (for example, a professional degree) and (b) you have some aptitude about it (you can go through it). This means it is better to pick up a degree on a subject you are mildly interested in but it has good employment prospects than to study a subject you are "crazy" about, but has limited employment prospects.
  • Do not contemplate frequent moves from one employer to another. Evidence shows that those who advance faster are those who stay with their employer for longer (because they show loyalty, they acquire know-how within the domain of their work, and they get to accumulate connections and trust within the employer, factors that contribute to advancement).
  • Set clear goals, short-term and longer term, about your career and personal life. You may need to revise these as your progress. Once you reach a goal, set new goals.
  • Manage your social network (other words are social capital or “guanxi”). Your network (friends and acquaintances) gives you information, influence and solidarity, these help employability and career advancement. Personal "face-to-face" relationships are superior to "electronic" relationships.
  • Try to keep yourself informed about new developments in technology that influence your domain of work. Sometimes such developments provide opportunities. Some other times they may bring “threats” that, however, you can bypass if you are aware of.
  • Keep yourself informed on social trends – what people (that means consumers) care about.
  • Do not let yourself be lured by publicized stories of "quick" success. For every such story there are many failures that simply are not made known. Have plans for the long-term, not for “quick” gains that seldom materialize.
  • Do not overwork yourself. Someone has said that people who work extremely hard miss opportunities because “they are too busy working to know what really happens around”.
  • Take holidays if this is possible. Though in China holidays are not part of the culture, holidays (one or two weeks out of work) do help: breaks replenish your energy and your motivation to produce and be creative when back to work. Fact is also that holidays help maintain your health, and allow you to have a longer productive life. If you can, do take vacation once or twice per year for at least one week.
  • There can be failures and setbacks. Keep in mind that these are in order, and try to see these are learning experiences.