Many people build a successful career and then claim they never had a career plan. You might assume that means you don’t need such a plan. What you are not hearing is the very many more people who also never had a plan and, as a result, didn’t reach dizzy heights of success but meandered through their career and found themselves dissatisfied.
It’s true that the world of work is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous at moment. All you can really count on is change. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan ahead, plan your career path, plan for your future.
You need a plan, it needs to be flexible. A plan is a framework to build upon, it sets out your goals and aspirations for the future. If it is set in stone it’s not a plan, it’s a commandment. That’s not what you need. Plan but be prepared to flex, to adjust, accommodate, compromise and perhaps even to change direction, change the plan, even change the career path you originally chose.
Think in terms of short-term goals and objectives which lead towards your long-term career path planning. Your short-term goals will relate to longer-term objectives and overall career plan. Objectives need to be realistic and flexible in terms of delineating your career plan but be ambitious too; you won’t climb high unless you aim high.
So start by identifying the skills and experiences that will help you achieve your objectives. Take the time for some serious reflection and self-assessment. A career MOT, if you will, and plan to close any gap between where you are and where you want be. Start with two key things:
- What’s important to you? Be honest with yourself and remember your sense of self has to do with what you want to become, not just what you are now.
- What motivates you and what it is your enjoy doing and are good at? Ask yourself what are my strengths, my values? Where do I belong? What is my contribution?
Network for success
You need to ensure your network knows of your short and longer term objectives. Networking is crucial for career success and you need to make time to build and cultivate your network of contacts. This is not about job search but is really about market intelligence; use your network as your eyes and ears in the marketplace. To do that you need to add value as networking is about reciprocity, so look for ways to help people in your network.
Think about your personal brand strength? Do you have advocates within your company? Do people recommend you; are you known in the marketplace? Successful career planning is built on self-awareness, so think about your strengths as a key part of your personal brand.
Review your ongoing learning. Is there anything you would like to change or improve or add to your skillset? Acquiring experience and skills will add strength to job applications, while demonstrating your drive and enthusiasm and commitment to your career. Your network may be able to help you identify opportunities or put you in touch with people who can advise or help.
Plan to succeed
Taking charge of your career is an imperative, you need to market yourself as a product and campaign accordingly. You should see your career as a million pound project and manage it accordingly. Effective career planning allows the mapping of a personalized career path enabled by contacts, peers, mentors, and colleagues.
A career plan based on your preferences, strengths and values ensures maximized performance and long-term goal alignment. If you are able do the things you love then you are more likely to happy at work, working to the best of your ability, and learning as you go.
In essence you need to be clear about what is important to you and ensure your personal values are aligned with your work and other commitments. Because unless you happen to buy a winning lottery ticket you are going to be working at your career for the next few decades, so being a productive worker, effective performer and valued team member are important. Plan to make the most of your career.