How to Plan your Career

We all get busy with the day-to-day, but it’s essential to think about our long-term career growth because, otherwise, it’s likely that no one else will. So how can we focus strategically? Here are some key strategies which will guide you in shaping your career.

Take charge of your professional development

Fundamentally, you have to ask yourself this question: “How can I ensure that I’m more valuable at the end of the year than I was at the beginning?”  There are three ways that as you’re thinking about your personal/professional development goals.

First, think about creating learning goals.  It’s important that you identify gaps in your knowledge and think about how to fill them. 

Next, think about creating connecting goals.  Something that’s very useful to do that comes out of the world of campaigns is the idea of creating a power map.  Specifically, think through in your organization, where power resides.  Who are the people that are truly influential?  Who has power over your career?  Yes, your boss.  But there’s also a web of other people that are influential when it comes to the fate of your career.

Third and finally, think about goals related to creating.  Writing or other forms of sharing your knowledge is important because it crystalizes your thinking, and it has the simultaneous benefit of building your personal brand.  You could be blogging or creating some other form of content.  Maybe you’re giving speeches, and perhaps applying to do a presentation at an industry conference.

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A Kaleidoscope Mindset for Career Mobility

A career mobility analogy that comes to mind is the concept of a career moving from a telescopic view—one linear approach from point A to point B—as though there’s only a single line of sight, to that of a kaleidoscope view when there are almost an endless array of views that are all very attractive, depending upon where you choose to focus your priorities.  Much like the makeup of a kaleidoscope, there are three mirrors that make up the patterns that one may pursue and offer factors for making informed choices about those patterns. 

In the career mobility vernacular, these three mirrors can very well represent the three components of a satisfying career: one’s skills, one’s interests, and one’s values.  In this example, the whole is greater than the sums of its parts.  When one looks at their careers with this combination in mind, the outcome is exponentially larger and more impactful than viewing any of these three components in isolation.  Simply put, here’s how the three components are defined.

Skills, also known as abilities that you collect over time.  Some will be particularly relevant in your next option; some will need to be put away until a later point.  But they all play a part in your career toolkit. 

Interests, tasks you like to do, those things that you provide you with the greatest enjoyment.  And there’s no arguing that if we’re doing work that we love to do, chances are we’ll be more successful and energized about the work itself. 

Values, those things that are most important to you and that you may tend to hold near and dear to your heart.  Things like serving others, being challenged, spending time with family and friends.  Fundamental aspects of a role that make or break your job satisfaction.

When these three mirrors are taken into account, the choices we make on our next experiences may look different than if we solely focused on being promoted or growth by vertical movement. 

Here is one option that could very well represent your next opportunity for growth: enrichment.  Also known as fertile soil, this represents the opportunity to grow right where you are.  It is represented by a small shift of the kaleidoscope that may alter some of the tasks that you’re currently doing in your role.  Specialists do this all the time by deepening their experiences and becoming subject-matter experts.  Growing right where you are is an often-overlooked option.  But no one reaps great benefits in overall career patterns.  And if you develop a brand as someone who continually learns and grows, others will see you as someone who does not stay stagnant.

When options are leveraged appropriately, we find that there are more right places for the right people.  The right times become situational.  Imagine how much more plentiful growth opportunities could be if individuals and organizations appreciated, and planned, for these types of experiences.

Pre-write your resume

It’s useful to get clear on what your next steps are by following a process known as “pre-writing your resume.” But essentially, it involves writing a version of your resume five years from today, in which you imagine what your ideal title and job are, and you write your resume as though it were five years in the future. Now, what is useful about this, it’s not just understanding what your goal is five years from now, but also, figuring out what the steps are in between now and then, what jobs you need to qualify yourself for, what skills you need to gain in between now and then, so that you can work toward it strategically.

Invest in deep work

You want to invest in “deep work,”. Now, essentially what this means is that instead of spending your time on the easy things, where people fritter it away—doing email, responding to immediate crises—you’re focused on long-term projects that actually move the needle substantially, the kinds of things that you will get noticed for and be proud of. When you do that, that stands out in people’s minds and it helps you build a brand that enables people to remember you and see your true talents.

Build your external reputation

It’s useful to think about building your external reputation because, frankly, of course, no one’s trying to do this, but over time, especially if you’ve been in an organization for a while, it’s easy for people to start to take you for granted. But if you begin to build your reputation externally as well, by doing things like blogging, or speaking at conferences, or taking a leadership role in professional associations, it ensures that people outside the company are hearing your name, and oftentimes will begin mentioning you to their colleagues inside the company. When people start to hear about you from all corners, they begin to realize that they may have something special on their hands.

Be Proactive about opportunities

Another thing that’s really important that you do and this is a surprisingly common event is ask for opportunities. Because so many people are there, working, they’re getting the results, and they’re presuming that other people are looking at them, talent-spotting, and expecting that any moment they’re going to get a tap on the shoulder. It doesn’t work like that. One lady in my ex-organization, she went to her boss and asked, “Well, where are all these opportunities?” And the boss turned around and said, “Well, what do you want? What are you looking for? Where do you want to go?” And she’d not, at any stage, taken a proactive step to say, “Hey, boss, this is the sort of opportunity that I want.”

Basically, she was making it hard for her boss to work out what to do with her. So there was nothing wrong apart from one slight omission,

By doing those strategies you can begin to really take control, long term, of your professional future.

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