If you look at your career, there are stakeholders who are invested in your career. These people are your precious allies. They are relying on you so you have a responsibility to them. But take your nose out of your work for a moment and think: who are your stakeholders? Is your boss a stakeholder? Is it people in the department that you often have to share data with? Is it senior management, two or three levels above you? Is it your mentor, from an area of the company that isn’t much related to yours? Do you know where your stakeholders are?
Stakeholders are the people who have a vested interest in the success of your career – because it helps their career, because they happen to like you, because what you do makes their job easier. Whatever reason it may be, you need to have stakeholders because these people will fight for you when plum assignments are given, when raises are decided, when restructuring means someone gets the short end of the stick.
So your first step is to identify your stakeholders. Who benefits from your work? You then need to nourish these relationships. Figure out why they are invested in you and make sure you play your part. Finally, you should continually watch your stakeholders’ moves. If your stakeholders are leaving, you need to know you can replace them or be prepared to follow them out the door. If your stakeholders are doing well, see how you can move into their expanded sphere of influence.
Proactive career management means that you pay attention to the benefit you bring to the company and your stakeholders. Do not just blindly assume that people will notice your good work. Be specific and deliberate about who you are serving and the value that your work provides. You cannot be successful all on your own. You couldn’t possibly know everything that is going on in the company or be at all places at all times to influence all people directly. You need to cultivate stakeholders who will believe in you and speak up for you when you are not there. In a market of increased job insecurity, powerful stakeholder relationships are a critical way to recession-proof your job.
When I was growing up, there was a popular TV public service announcement that would ask, “It’s 10pm. Do you know where your children are?” This would presumably remind parents that they should keep tabs on their children. They’re precious. Parents are responsible for them. Of course parents should know where their children are.