The Future of Your Career is Being Decided Without You

Photo: Jan Genge

Decisions about the future of your career happen behind closed doors. And you are not invited.

It’s that time of year again. When you find out if your salary will increase, a barometer of your company value. And if you are lucky, you will learn about a bonus.


The most wonderful time of the year. Unless you wonder why you didn’t get the assignment or promotion you deserved.

Having a Say in the Future of Your Career

In the play Hamilton, Aaron Burr says “I wanna be in the room where it happens.” He was upset because decisions were made about the country and its citizens without his input. He wanted a voice.

Back room deals, er, strategy meetings don’t need to be exclusive. Rather, employees and employers can benefit from full participation in this important company process.

Let’s examine this conundrum by defining two important workplace problems that need to be solved:

  1. Employees want to influence important management decisions regarding their futures.
  2. Employers want to retain high performers, identify and nurture the next layer of high potentials, yet struggle with incomplete information about employees.

Employee and Employer Stories Illustrate the Workplace Problem

Employee Scenario

You’ve worked hard all year, helped your company win a big piece of new business, and even retained a client who was almost out the door. Not to mention, you built a stellar relationship with your boss and your team.

It is almost time for your review and you are definitely expecting a promotion with a big raise. You have done everything right and you can’t imagine any negative feedback about your performance. Everyone on your team really likes working with you.

Your Future is Not in Your Hands

Guess what? Your boss might not be the best networker or advocate for your contributions. Thus, no one else knows about your successes and contributions to the department or the company.

You’ve worked hard for the company, but no one knows about it. But, isn’t getting the work done the most important thing?

The executive team overlooked the value of your work. This comes as a real shock.

The worst part is you start to question your own value. You ask yourself, “Why stay at a company that doesn’t value your performance?”

Conversations about your career development and trajectory plans happened without you. You feel powerless.

Employer Scenario

While it might be easy for top leaders to observe high performers in action, they also rely on other processes. Like a performance review process and specific feedback from managers.

Some managers are natural communicators and supporters for their teams. They are effective networkers, have strong relationships with executive leadership and make impressive moves throughout their career. As they succeed, they develop the people around them.

As advocates, they push for the appropriate technical and leadership learning and development opportunities for their staff.

Yet, other managers are not high communicators and do not take a strong role in helping people with professional development programs. They may care about other performance metrics, like operational efficiency.

They might rely solely on HR to handle learning and development for their people.

We’ve all had managers who are excellent at managing communication to their leadership about their own performance. Yet, they do not take the same approach for their staff.

Leadership wants to attract and retain the best talent, yet even in the best of circumstances there is imperfect information and communication.

So What Can Be Done?

Employees: Create Your Sphere of Influence at the Decision Table

Employees can do two things to further their influence within a company:

1 Assemble a team of advocates

While you may not be in the room, you have the power to engage with a team of influential leaders on your behalf.

As a manager on track to become a director and then VP, my boss openly acknowledged my work. Yet, he could not do this alone, nor could he be the only person influencing budget allocation for my projects. I actively developed relationships across the organization to make others aware of the results of my programs.

For example, a CFO is more likely to support investment in your program if you’ve presented benchmarking reports on industry spending trends. I researched what other organizations were spending on marketing programs, focused on ROI, and shared marketing success stories.

Organizations have a limited pool of money to spread across the organization to support compensation, raises, and promotions. Hence, the employees with the most advocates, positive peer reviews, and positive recommendations, will receive the financial rewards.

2 Create and Develop Your Personal Brand

Every professional needs to develop a personal brand. I’ve written about that topic here. People across the organization will benefit from knowing your talents and success stories.

With this information, your work will become known and your value to the company will be reinforced.

Here are examples of additional tactics to support your personal brand:

  • Create an internal PR campaign to ensure people know about you.
  • Become visible. Present team results or best practices at a staff meeting
  • Share articles or points of view with colleagues; package up results to ensure they aren’t overlooked.
  • Get involved in initiatives that go beyond your immediate team. If your company has a blog, offer to contribute.

Employers: How to Retain and Develop the Best Talent

According to the Cognizant Jobs of the Future (CJOF) Index, one of the fastest growing professions is that of career counselor (181% increase in 2018).

Here are two ideas for employers to consider:

1 Promote Career Development Opportunities

Given the fast pace of technology and change in our modern workplace, career development is an important component of business growth.

The top tier business schools invest in professional career coaching for their students to enhance the prospects of their graduates. Likewise, corporations will amplify the work of their employees by continuing this trend.

Given the burgeoning HR Tech industry’s ability to offer services to broader numbers via technology solutions, more employees can benefit. Transparent learning and development solutions will send the right message to strong contributors.

According to a report by software firm Qualtrics and venture capital firm Accel Partners, millennial workers rate training as the #1 thing they consider when starting a job.

All employees need to be coached, counseled and personally developed in some way. They also need to be encouraged to be an active participant in their professional development process.

2 . Facilitate Mentorship in New Ways

Organizations and HR departments can support employee empowerment through other programs. They can create and support a structure of mentorship. Connect junior staff with mentors from other departments or slightly more experienced peers.

While mentoring is nothing new, Chip Conley, author of Wisdom at Work, has outlined a sensible way to build a program like this.


Chip points out high-performing companies invest in programs that pair up older workers with younger workers.

There is an implicit trade agreement between the generations where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Digital Intelligence (DQ) are exchanged. Here is a link to an article he wrote on the topics of DQ and EQ.

For example, a valuable training program for younger workers focuses on how to talk to and learn from senior management: Directors, VPs and C-level leaders.

Individuals, especially that next layer of high potentials, or the quietly productive performers need support to navigate their career paths. As a result, individuals and organizations both benefit.

And, as Chip Conley mentions, don’t forget about the dedicated individuals representing all generations in the workplace. Professional development is beneficial to all, especially the wise workers with a learning mindset.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, you can take a more active role in the future of your career. You can do this by communicating with strategic advocates, developing relationships with management, and talking with Human Resources departments. With these efforts, you can build a future within your current organization.

To clarify, employers can identify and make professional development investments across the company. HR Tech solutions and Learning and Development systems make this possible.

The closed door meetings can turn into productive open conversations.

Employers and employees can enable influence at the decision table. A collaborative employee development process will benefit high performers and those whose potential may be hidden in current processes.

Related posts:

What is an Agile Career?

Why Every Professional Needs to Create a Personal Brand

How Personal Branding, Employer Branding, and Corporate Branding Align

Stagnation is the Enemy of Employee Retention

If you are interested in the future of work, career development, the workplace, personal branding, workforce trends/ideas, agility, or how to cultivate happy profitable employees, subscribe to Marti’s 52 Ideas. For more details on career agility, check it out here.

You can also check out the best-selling book on Amazon, Activate Your Agile Career: How Responding to Change Will Inspire Your Life’s Work.


Marti Konstant
Marti Konstant is a workplace futurist with an agile mindset. She is a career growth analyst, author, speaker, personal brand architect, and founder of the Agile Careerist Project™. What started out as a quest to fine-tune her evolving career sparked a research project, a book, and workshops, where future of work and career agility are central themes.

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