You might have heard of the concept of a “career plan” – something that you put in place to help figure out what steps you’ll take to achieve your long term career goals.
I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds scary to me. I’m supposed to figure out where my career will be 40 years from now? Give me a break!
By the way, I did coach a gentleman who had a 25 year career plan. Really. It shocked me, too. But his frustration was that reality wasn’t lining up according to his plan.
So here is how you do some useful career planning without driving yourself nuts:
First: What’s Your Goal?
Capture in your career plan what you’d like to achieve through your work. Is it primarily to amass a large amount of money you’ll need for your family and retirement? Is it about accomplishments and things you’ll do? Is there some larger mission you’re fulfilling in your life? How do you define “success” for yourself?
It’s important to write down the answers, because it helps you to look at it more objectively. It also forces you to pick some words to describe these fuzzy concepts, rather than just have them float around in a cloud in your mind.
Second: What Can You Leverage?
Look at the assets that you have to work with. You’ve amassed a certain set of skills, you know a bunch of people, you have a certain position and reputation. Hopefully, you have some savings which might help if you want to invest in changing direction. All of these can be viewed as a launching pad from which you’ll create your future success.
Third: What Are Your Options?
Examine options which might help bridge the gap between those larger, longer term goals and where you are today. You’ll need new skills and relationships with key types of people. You’ll need to build up a position and reputation over the course of years. Certain options might involve moving, going back to school, or building a base of experience that you’re lacking.
Fourth: Be Flexible and Adjust Your Career Plan as Necessary
So far I haven’t talked about the order and steps you’ll take to build your way toward the goal. If you were really able to do that, you’d have a plan. But that plan would actually be quite fragile: When reality doesn’t line up the way you’d like, you have to go back and develop a new plan.
When you fly from New York to LA, the pilot doesn’t just pick an incredibly accurate direction and start flying. That would be like trying to pick up a pea with a pole ten miles long.
In a practical sense, then, what you do is to:
- Maintain a clear goal.
- Take steps in the general direction of that goal.
- Learn and adjust as you go along.
When you’re constantly making progress, generally in the right direction, you’re much more likely to get there – or at least close enough that you can feel satisfied with what you’re doing.
To be realistic, realize that your GOAL will probably change over the course of your life. The nice thing about this process is that you can change as you go along, navigating around obstacles and even changing your general direction.
It’s YOUR life, after all. You get to do that.
The point is to pick a direction and move toward it. If you don’t move, you’ll spend your life being pushed around in whatever random directions people have for you. It’s not likely you’ll get to where YOU want to be. Take charge of your career with a career plan!
by Carl Dierschow