Think About It: OIWC asks, whose job is it anyway?

These days, many of us feel lucky to have a job -- especially in an industry we love. OIWC's Career Satisfaction Survey -- sent to OIWC members in September 2008 -- touched on the topic of career path. Results showed that 76 percent of respondents want a clear career path, but only 37 percent say their companies are doing well in this area. Which begs the question, whose job is it to define your career path? Is it entirely up to you, the individual, or should your employer shoulder some of the responsibility, as well?
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These days, many of us feel lucky to have a job -- especially in an industry we love.

But just because we're weathering the current financial storm doesn't mean that we're satisfied with where we're at in our careers long term. We all need to dream, right?

Whether you envision yourself designing snowboards or being CEO of an outdoor clothing company, you need to get yourself into position -- and make choices -- to achieve your goals.

OIWC's Career Satisfaction Survey -- sent to OIWC members in September 2008 -- touched on the topic of career path. Results showed that 76 percent of respondents want a clear career path, but only 37 percent say their companies are doing well in this area.

Which begs the question, whose job is it to define your career path? Is it entirely up to you, the individual, or should your employer shoulder some of the responsibility, as well?

Of course, many companies in the industry do make it a priority to guide their employees in the right direction. Laura Miera, vice president of global production at Marmot, said that she's been asked -- straight from the top -- to add mentoring to her unofficial job duties.

"The management is so open-minded and encouraging here," she said. "A company's culture comes from the top. If the upper management believes in helping their employees along, then others in the company will, too."

The subject is getting a lot of play on the OIWC Blog, where the majority of respondents think it's in the employee's best interest to take control of her own career, not rely on her employer to do so. The employer may be able to point out possible career paths at the organization, but, as one OIWC member noted, no one cares as much about your career as you do. And, added another, because you alone know what you really like and dislike, and the breadth of skills you offer, it makes sense for you to map out where you want to go.

But how do you know what the next right steps are?

Most who posted to the OIWC Blog said they feel there's immeasurable value in having a group of advisors or mentors to serve as a sounding board and offer advice as you evaluate your career options.

Along those lines, networking should probably be on your to-do list. Miera said she didn't realize how easy it was until she started attending some of the outdoor trade shows. "The outdoor industry is really like a family. We compete against each other out on the floor, but we can also trade ideas that help us be more successful in our jobs," she said.

OIWC bloggers also suggested that it can be helpful to evaluate where you are in your career every so often. Are you happy? Are you passionate about what you do? Do you need to make some adjustments to bring more value -- and feel more satisfied?

Even if you're not in your "dream" job right now, Miera said, there's something you should bring to your career every day. "The most important thing in my career toolkit is a lesson that my mother and her mother taught me. And that is to have integrity. Do your job well."

Miera said she wasn't necessarily thinking of her career path 26 years ago, when she took a part-time job sewing down jackets for Marmot. But she took pride in the work she did each day. "I knew that if I could sew a down vest and sew it well, I could go anywhere in the world and sew," she said.

And that's basically what she did. As Marmot expanded, Miera headed up its first assembly line, then moved into design and prototyping. Then, in the '90s, she began to fly to Asia to oversee global production.

Miera said she credits her many unexpected career turns to being open to new experiences, and advises other women to do the same. "Don't be afraid to jump into something new," she added. "If you're afraid, you'll get stuck. But if you jump and fail, you'll still learn something in the process."

Join Miera and other leaders in the outdoor industry as they continue the conversation about career path development at OIWC's upcoming regional event on April 9 at the REI Berkeley Store from 4:30-7 p.m. For more information, visit www.oiwc.org.

This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at oiwc@snewsnet.com.

Laura Loftus is a writer and partner at Neighborhood All-Stars, a new print and motion design boutique that can help your brand be even more awesome. See their work at www.neighborhoodallstars.com.

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