Planning is critical to success in your career. It lays the foundation for action and serves as a guide through even the most surprising and complex professional situations.
If you were going on vacation, you’d plan where to go, how to get around and the budget required for your adventure. If you were building a house, you’d make sure that all the materials were available, that the process was safe. These things take just a fraction of the time that your career does, so why wouldn’t you have a strategy in place for that?
Career strategy is an important, but often overlooked part of professional life. It’s a process that helps map out not just goals, but the steps, skills and even people required to help you get there. Career strategy should occur at all stages of your career, no matter what industry you’re in, or the seniority of your role. Your career plan is also just that, so make it reflect your professional aspirations and ambitions.
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Do your research
Study people you admire in your field. Maybe they are well-known or they might just sit across the desk from you. Whatever the case, work out how they got where they wanted to be. Ask for advice for writing a career strategy. Seek out as much information as possible and borrow parts of their strategy that suit you most.
Big, lofty goals – despite maybe being impressive on paper – are generally the hardest to achieve. Smaller, specific goals allow you to set targets that are achievable, and identify the steps required to achieve them. It also means you’ll be celebrating wins more often, helping propel you through more challenging periods and remind you that you’re on track.
This is a critical part of your career strategy. While having something clear and structured will steer you in the right direction, following it to the letter may mean you miss opportunities that arise on the way.
Be open to making modifications to your strategy as different situations demand. Check in regularly with your colleagues and senior leaders, or hire a coach to keep you on track. Being flexible will keep you on track, as well as always open to new possibilities.
Planning for a five-year period is ideal because it’s long enough to surpass short-term goals and achieve something significant, without being so long as to be unimaginable or difficult to adhere to. When writing your five-year career strategy, ensure it contains the following:
Start with something specific and ambitious. Don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars, but be clear about what it is, considering your skillset, network, personality type and learning style.
2. Your Plan
This is a process of breaking the bigger, more final goals into smaller achievable tasks. If you need to participate in training to further your skills, find out where this happens, how much it costs and how you enroll.
3. Write it down
Create a vision board, write on your white board, save to your desktop. Whatever it’s written on (although we say the more places the better!), refer to your plan often to remind yourself of how concrete this strategy is, and how determined you are to get there. Add notes and make annotations when new ideas arise, when strategies are in place and working well, or when you achieve something.
Above all, career strategy should be a constant exercise of learning to take advantage of opportunities that arise throughout your professional life. Careering planning should be a process that helps you see the maximum potential of situations, not limit it.