“The future depends on what you do today.”
We own our careers. While this might seem like an empowering statement, it doesn’t tell us how to take action to do so. This article provides five practical steps to taking action to manage your career in 2018.
Over 20 years ago I managed to assert myself well enough to land an interview with a major retailer by walking into the Human Resources office and asking to speak to the recruiter. I did not have an interview but the recruiter came out to meet me. She was impressed enough to ask me in. These moments led to a series of interviews with the company over a few weeks. Until that time my experience was primarily in healthcare. Unfortunately, the net result of the many interviews was, “I am sorry, you cannot work in this industry. You have only healthcare experience.” From that day forward I vowed to never hear these words again. My determination led to a long career in varied industries. I became the architect of my career. These five steps summarize the approach I took to create a deliberate career path, which I hope will help you to take charge of your career.
1. Assess your Current State from Above: Step up out of the details. Take a strategic view of your career from above. Ask yourself these questions:
-What does my portfolio say about me, i.e., my credentials and experience?
-What words come to mind? No details or numbers.
-What professions are represented in my professional network?
-Does my Linkedin profile reflect ‘tasks’ or ‘accomplishments’?
-How am I presenting myself to the world? Is this what I want? Be candid. Ask trusted friends and colleagues to answers the same questions for you. Be open to their feedback without judgement. This is your 'what is’ or current reality.
2. Interview yourself: Ask yourself:
-Where do I want to be? What do I want to be doing?
-What profession or career do I aspire to (not what job do I want)? Clarify your ‘what will be.’ direction. If you are not sure, no worries. Instead, ask yourself:
-What do I think I might want to do but need to know more? Do I want to be individual contributor? A manager? Business owner? In a new career. Why?
-What do I have now to offer this profession?
-What are my barriers/gaps to getting there?
-What is the most important goal I will commit to remove my biggest gap?
3. Explore New Possibilities: Whether you know exactly what you want as a career, not sure, or decide you want to change careers, this step involves exploring possibilities by thinking beyond the usual. Not all careers are a straight path. In fact few seldom are. Before settling on definitive next steps, such as seeking additional education, a new job, or more experience this step entails exploring possibilities. This is about "what" and not getting bogged down with the "how". Embrace ambiguity, for now.
-What do the job postings telling me?
-Dialogue within Linkedin.com groups. Ask questions.
-Learn, offer, and be visible.
-Volunteer, to gain new experience and networks.
-Conduct informational interviews with those who have experience.
-Get a mentor. Develop a board of mentors.
After some exploration decide where you want to go in your career. Everyone’s situation is different. In some cases you might already know what you want to do. For others it might take longer.
I have met career clients who sometimes get confused or stuck because they confuse ‘job’ with ‘career’. A job is not a career. Think of a career as a longer term passion. A job can serve as one step along the way of your career. Step out of your comfort zone by seeking exposure to new possibilities. Deciding on a career is not always easy, although once committed doors begin to open as you move onto the next step.
4. List Steps to Reach Your Goals: In this step you will list the actions it will take to get to where you are going. Consider what you learned about yourself in Step 1 and what you decided in Step 3. Identify the gap between the two. Now, you are ready to do the following:
-Brainstorm “How” will I get there? Take a friend to coffee to get their ideas, too. Don’t worry about the sequence, yet.
-What will it take for me to reach my goal? For example, create a small business plan? Gain higher level experience? Learn to manage people? Learn new technical skills? New projects/stretch assignments/take on work that requires influence and leading?
-How can I achieve the above? Who do I need to talk to? What questions will I ask?
-Who are the right people to add to my network, i.e. entrepreneurs?
-Make a decision to go back to school only for right reasons. See Ch. 14 in “Find Your Fit.” More education does not have to be a degree, i.e., Coursera, edX.
Let it flow. Brainstorm first. Sequence last.
5. Draft a Career Plan: Now, put your ‘how’ brainstorm list in sequential order. Remove or merge like ideas. Some parts will be done concurrently. Some will take longer than others, maybe years, e.g., if your plan calls for further education stay true to your plan even if this takes more time than other components of your plan. Be purposeful in your decisions about what to keep in and take out. Steps 1+2+3+4 = 5 (your draft career plan) See. Figure 1. The process of leading yourself through the five steps will help you confirm, explore, deliberately set your direction, and manage your career. The emerged plan will be your path to career success. You can give yourself permission to change it as you wish throughout as you learn and grow throughout your career.
Revisit it regularly to update it by modifying actions as you accomplish some and add new ones. Reward yourself for accomplishing key actions. If later you decide to change your career direction follow the five steps again. Having gone through it once will you will find it easier the second time.
FIVE STEPS TO A STRATEGIC CAREER PLAN FOR 2018
1. Assess your current state from above.
2. Interview yourself.
3. Explore new possibilities
4. List steps to reach your goals
5. Draft a career plan
Find more in the book, Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You’ll Love, by Susan Kaiden, editor.
Figure 1: Career Action Plan (example)
My career Aspiration: Serve in an HR leadership role in a start-up pharmaceutical company.
Today’s Date: December, 4, 2017
BIG GOALS: (What I will need in my portfolio to achieve my career aspiration.)
SPECIFIC ACTIONS: (specific, measurable, realistic, timed)
Goal A: Earn SPHR certification.
Action 1: Get details on how/where to get certified12/4-12/11/2017, completed
Action 2: Find out if my company will provide tuition assistance 12/4-12/11/2017, completed
Action 3: Get childcare so I can study at night (family member)
Action 4: Find a study buddy 12/4/2017-1/30/2018
Action 5: Sign up and study like crazy. Depends on start dates
Goal B: Find a mentor
Action 1: Network on linkedin; find groups to join. 12/4/2017-ongoing
Action 2: Identify who does now what I want to do in my career, 1/30/2017-2/28/2017
Action 3: Approach someone from Action #s 1 and 2 for posssible mentoring. 1/30/2017-2/28/2017
Goal C: Minimum of 5 years in HR generalist roles in healthcare and pharmaceuticals
Action 1: Determine the gaps between my ‘current state’ and my ‘future desired state’ 12/4/2017-1/5/2018
Action 2: Identify which areas of HR are my strengths and areas to develop, i.e., compensation, talent development, recruiting, benefits admin., employee relations, 12/4/2017-1/5/2018
Action 3: Get my manager’s support to develop in areas from Action 2 and create my Individual Development Plan (IDP), 12/4/2017-1/31/2018