Custodia Cabanas

16 December 2002

Taking control of one’s career involves a constant process of self-assessment and analysis of skills and attitudes. Those who know their strong points, needs, goals and values have a greater chance of furthering their careers

Self-management is an individual’s skill in controlling decision-making, when managing his or her professional career. It requires individuals to think strategically about their careers. They must know who they are and where they are going, and undergo a permanent process of re-evaluation

Keeping one’s job or getting promoted are no longer guaranteed. Once hired, employees used to expect to retire from the same organization. As the 21st century unfolds however, firms can only offer workers the possibility of increasing their "market value." This means improving their future employability, but it does not guarantee long-term employment and/or promotion in their professional lives. The dotcom crisis is the best example.

For a manager, taking control of one’s career involves a constant process of self-assessment and analysis of skills and attitudes. Those who know their strong points, needs, goals and values have a greater chance of furthering their careers.


Professional self-assessment is an individual’s ability to gauge his or her professional capacity, as well as to discover those dimensions of their personality that affect it.

Theoretical tools exist, such as self-assessment tests. Yet the most effective aid for managers is the real-world analysis offered by feedback. To develop their careers, managers must be willing to seek assistance; it is simply too difficult for most people to remain objective when assessing themselves. This is why people must devote time and energy to forming and maintaining a network of relationships, both within and outside the organization. This provides more honest and varied information on how their behavior affects their working environment. They must also remain open to constructive criticism.

Strong Points

These are one’s areas of greatest professional competence. We need to be aware of our strong points if we are to make the right decisions about what to do. In most cases, it’s easier to know your weaknesses than your strengths, as one usually learns more from errors than from successes. An effective strategy for personal and professional development means focusing on and developing our strong points, those for which we are appreciated.


Need is what motivates us when working: what attracts, pleases and satisfies us in fulfilling our duties. Such needs are linked to parts of the personality that generally also influence our preferred way of working. It’s important that we know whether we prefer structured, predictable work, or if we’re more motivated in an uncertain environment. Whether we feel more competent working as a team or when we produce results individually. Few people work well in every scenario.

Experience and a comparative analysis of expectations versus results will also help show what we should not do.


Values are factors we consider important and positive in themselves, such as respect, fairness and honesty. They are related to needs but should be kept separate.

They do not refer exclusively to ethical questions, as the same rules apply to all organizations. Moreover, ethics only constitute one part of a global values system within companies.

When we agree to work for an organization with a values system that is incompatible with our own, we are condemning ourselves to frustration.


While the above concepts are generic and long-term, the objectives are both specific and short term. They refer to goals aimed for in the short and medium term in one particular aspect: this can be money, geographical location or some other area. Clarity and specificity when setting goals will prevent individuals finding themselves trapped in a job that could adversely affect their careers.

Those who are clear about what they want to achieve generally also detect more opportunities for advancement, both within the organization and without. They are likewise more creative when seeking ways of achieving these goals.

Fitting in

Possessing full knowledge of ourselves makes it easier to choose the appropriate post, or find the job offering the greatest possibility of fitting in - provided we also possess full knowledge of the organization and that post.

The better the fit between the post and the individual, the greater and faster the individual’s contribution to the organization. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that, from a professional advancement viewpoint, the best perspectives often result from a fit that is somewhat imperfect, and where a degree of growth is demanded of the individual.

These tasks are risky, since individuals can make errors that could hold back, or even reverse, the progress of their careers, or have a negative impact on the organization. Still, they allow individuals to gain knowledge, skills, perspectives and capacity of judgment.

Self-management requires the individual to think about their career in a strategic manner: to know who they are, where they want to go, and then to engage in a constant process of revision and revalidation.


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IE Business School

María de Molina, 11. 28006 Madrid

Tel. +34 915 689 600