How can you translate the tenets of great business strategy to create a great career strategy? Here we reflect on recent executive workshops and applications of Return Driven Strategy applied to the micro-level, the individual, which we call Career Driven Strategy®.  At a series of career strategy workshops presented at The Center for Strategy, Execution and Valuation in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University and at corporate universities and management development programs at Fortune 500 companies we have presented the tenets of Return Driven Strategy as they apply to the individual and career strategy. Career Driven Strategy has been used as a management coaching tool in companies and as a career strategy framework by individuals. Every professional from top corporate executive to entry-level employee, as well as students considering their career paths need to think and act strategically about their career choices. This is especially true in today’s changing economic environment.  

The Commitment Tenet in Career Strategy (Ethically Maximize Personal Wealth): This tenet sets the parameters for your career strategy in terms of achievement in personal wealth creation.  First and foremost is the idea of “ethically” maximizing wealth.  Of course, ethical behavior doesn’t ensure success, but it greatly reduces the risk of failure.  But it is interesting to note that the most frequently mentioned “Very Important” success factor ranked by millionaires in how they have come to be successful was “Integrity” (Thomas J. Stanley, The Millionaire Mind).   This tenet requires an understanding of your goals in terms of long-term creation of personal wealth.  It also requires a philosophy of understanding how creation of personal wealth, is driven from creating value for others.

First, Define It! (What does “personal wealth” mean to you?)
This question needs to be considered in your career strategy.  Personal wealth can include many facets: financial wealth, freedom, where you live, who you work with, lifestyle, ability to learn and growth, ability to make a difference.   Why is this question so important?  Why is it so important to define what personal wealth means to you?   Because if you don’t define it and understand it, you lack the anchor or compass that will help you make good decisions about your career choices and avoid bad ones.

The Goal Tenets: Focus on Customer Needs and Focus on the Right Customers
The second level of the Return Driven Strategy hierarchy comprises the two Goal Tenets. In Return Driven Strategy these Tenets focus on customers, customer needs, and customer trends in creating financial value for shareholders. 

The Goal Tenets in Career Strategy: Focus on Your Customer Needs and the Right Customers
The pathway to value creation is always through others.  Applying Return Driven Strategy to careers means thinking of an employer as a client, and the more unmet their need, the higher your potential value.   If your employer were a client, whose needs would you be fulfilling? If you are looking for another job, whose needs are you fulfilling?  A question everyone needs to ask: 
What are the otherwise unmet needs you fulfill in your existing job?    

The other part of the goal tenets focuses on targeting the right customers in your career.  As you target the market segments for employment, you must consider whether those target segments are increasing or are they declining or stagnant (along with the opportunities in those segments).  After all, the most talented person in a bad industry or profession makes less than the most average person in a great one. Change is continuous and it seems to a lot of people that success (and failure) will be wholly dependent on things that seem out of your control.    Yet, choosing your industry is part and parcel of your career strategy – distinctly in your control.  This requires the same vigilance and due diligence the best companies use in entering, existing or staying in an industry. It is amazing how many people seem “trapped” in the wrong industry or the wrong job. 

Are You in the Right Career/Job?
Peter Drucker (the father of modern management) posed two questions to management teams: "If you weren't already in a business, would you enter it today?" he asked. "And if the answer is no, what are you going to do about it?"   

For Career Driven Strategy, we ask: “If you weren’t already in your current career/job, would you enter it today?” “And, if the answer is no, what are you going to do about it?”  Using the Return Driven Strategy framework, we would consider how define personal wealth, your unique capabilities (Genuine Assets) and the ability and intension to make the necessary changes to make your career and life better for you.

Thinking and Acting Strategically About Your Career
Applying Return Driven Strategy to your career can help you to ask the right questions and think differently about your goals and activities.   As a coaching tool it can help you to coach and help others.   As a self-coaching tool is can help you as a daily tool to prioritize and focus your time and energy for the best use.  One entrepreneur who uses Return Driven Strategy for his career refers to it as a philosophy, as way of life.  Ultimately, it is a philosophy, one based on the ethical creation of wealth, by fulfilling needs of others while providing a rewarding career and life.

For information about the forthcoming book, Career Driven Strategy, contact

Career Driven Strategy

"Control your destiny or someone else will"

“The principles and concepts in Return Driven Strategy capture what we as educators and thought leaders should embed in our curricula and teachings in business schools throughout our undergraduate, graduate and executive education programs. Business schools must focus on the importance of a firm commitment to ethically create shareholder value.”  -- Arthur Kraft, Ph.D. Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), Dean at George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University
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