Ever wonder why some people get ahead and others don’t?  Who’s managing your career?  Just as your company judges your performance on a regular basis, you need to scrutinize your company to make sure your career is on track and your employer is providing the tools you need to do a good job and learn new skills.  It’s in your best interest to ask not only what you are doing for your company but also what your company is doing for you.  Here are some questions that may help you evaluate your employer:

– Do you know where you want to go?  Continually assess what you are doing now that meets your needs and what you want to be doing one, three and five years from now.  Put together a list of goals as well as the skills and experience you will need to achieve them.  then make your plans known to those who have authority and power.

– Does your company offer career guidance?  Ideal employers nurture their employees’ careers and go out of their way to make sure they know it.  When was the last time someone with influence gave you an honest assessment of your prospects?  Ask them specifically where they see you in 2 and 5 years and what you can do to get there.

– Does your company encourage career development?  Think about whether you get the kinds of assignments, equipment and training that will keep your skills sharp and make you attractive to another employer if you’re laid off or you choose to move on.  If appropriate training programs are available, have you been encouraged to apply?

– Does your company offer equal opportunities and challenges?  Are you getting visible assignments, in on key meetings, getting the kinds of things that build a broad track record such as participating in start-ups, new product launches, foreign postings?  If you haven’t been given developmental assignments, ask your boss if there are any in your future and what you need to do to get them.

– Is your company or division financially fit?  A career that’s humming along can easily be derailed by financial setbacks in your industry.  Stay tuned for news of mergers or buyouts – pay attention to your company’s bottom line, announcements of cost-control measures or initiatives aimed at re-engineering are often harbingers of lay-offs.

– If you are a woman, how far can you go with your company?  Sad to say, even in today’s employment world no matter what your company’s policies say, the best reality check is a look around.  Count the women in senior management and consider what titles they hold and the scope of their responsibilities.

– Does your company allow you to balance your professional and personal needs?  Weigh factors that might effect balance in your life:  Are you satisfied with company policies on vacation, sick leave, overtime, parental/maternity leave?  Is it worth it to continually work 10 hour days and 6 day weeks?  Are returning mothers taken as seriously as they were pre-pregnancy?

– Are you happy?  When bottom line issues have restricted salaries and bonuses, other forms of compensation have become more important.  Does your work environment resemble a dysfunctional family, or is the atmosphere crisis ridden?

– What if your company fails this review?  Focus on what needs to be addressed even if that means changing jobs.  At worst you will detect early signs of an imminent downsizing and determine whether you could be a target.  Bear in mind however, that what bothers you at your current job may be typical of your industry so compare what you’ve got with what you are likely to get.

If your company does earn high marks, you can carry on with renewed enthusiasm, knowing that you’re in the right workplace.

Author:  Dawn Longshaw, Managing Director Professional Recruitment