Do You Have a
Career Strategy? Still think youve got a lock on the job market?
Still think that all your hard work, education, and drive will continue
to pay off for you indefinitely? Excuse me for using an over-used
expression, but THINK AGAIN! Things are changing in the workplace
so quickly, so dramatically, that you may be in for some big surprises,
and sooner rather than later. The recent wave of massive layoffs,
mergers, and company closings wont end anytime soon. It will go on
for years as our roller-coaster economy continues to move forward.
Its Business 101.
So what can you
do? Just like todays most successful organizations (there really
are some) who routinely use a systematic process to plan their next
moves, so can you. In essence, you can design and implement a career
strategy to manage your career. A strategy that is fluid, flexible,
and aware that quick changes in direction is commonplace.
In crafting your
strategic career plan, I first recommend that you put it in writing.
Thats right, an actual on-paper or on-computer document that outlines
where you are in your career, where you want to go, and how you are
going to get there. The best plans Ive seen are 3-5 pages in length,
quite detailed, and often include time lines as a tool to measure
how you are doing versus your plan.
Keep in mind that
your plan is not cast in stone and is meant to be a truly dynamic
piece of work. Given our change-a-minute business environment, I think
its important that you establish a time to review your plan, say
at least once each month, and make any necessary up-dates and adjustments.
Here are a few
recommendations of the kind of information to include in your plan;
1. Current career
assessment: start with an open and honest look at where you are
currently in your career. Are you happy? Is it fulfilling? Is it
value-driven? Does it provide you the kind of work life balance
you desire? Are you earning the money you think you deserve? Are
you having fun? Should you change positions? Change companies? Change
You can take a free on-line assessment at assessment.com
your strengths and weaknesses: make lists of both. If you really
want to get serious, pull together a group of people you trust and
respect (its usually best not to use immediate family) and ask
them to give you some feedback on what they think your strengths/weaknesses
once you have identified the pluses and minuses, start to consider
what it means in regards to what additional information or assistance
you might need to get your skills in-line with the new workplace.
opportunities and threats: again, make lists of the specific opportunities
you see on your current career path. Are they visible? If not, how
can you determine what they are? Who can help you figure it out?
What lies ahead for your company or your industry? Make a list of
what you see to be the specific threats to your current path.
not sure how to go about this step? Heres a great place to get
help from people who really are experts on the subject. Investment
bankers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and others are in-tune
with this subject matter.
4. Create a
career vision-statement: craft a specific statement that best describes
what you would like your career to look like. Think more about what
would really pump you up, not what you think you should do or have
always done. Dont try and get the statement perfect. Just get some
ideas done as a starting point. You can change it at anytime.
I have seen people have multiple vision statements. A 90 day, a
1-year, a 5-year
5. Develop an
action-plan: now that you have an idea as to where you want to go,
how will you get there? If you have decided to change careers, what
will you do? How will you make the change? What help will you need?
What tools can you use to help you? What obstacles might you incur?
How will you overcome those obstacles?
think tactically. Be specific on the actions you will take to move
your career forward. If one doesnt work, think about new steps
and try them. This step is an on-going process.
6. Draw up an
implementation-plan: this is nothing more than putting your action-plan
into play. Determine a timeline of activities. The people who are
most successful in taking their careers to the next levels know
plans are ineffective unless associated with specific timelines
not just to do them within a certain period of time but to also
measure the results and make adjustments accordingly.
a winning career strategy often includes scheduling time each day
to carry out the plans. Are you willing to do that?
7. Think Differently:
I think it was Heraclitus who said, Everything is changing save
the law of change. Think about how you will constantly re-invent
yourself to adapt to whats going on in our business world and how
it will impact your career. Constantly examine how you can be of
more value to your organization. There are a number of great websites
out there who are dedicated to reviewing companies and industries
(vault.com, hoovers.com). Keep up to date!
routinely ask your boss how you can be of more value to your company.
a business: Is becoming a free-agent right for you? As Corporate
America continues to downsize, out-source, acquire and merge, the
opportunity for people to start their own business has never been
better. But is it for you? How will you know? What criteria will
you use to make such a decision?
maybe the best research you can do to decide if its right for you
is to talk to people who have left Corporate America to become a
small business owner or independent consultant. Ask them what they
like or dislike now that they have made the leap. Ask them what
surprises they experienced. Ask them what they would do differently
knowing what they know now.
A final bit of
thought on this idea of having a career strategy
It may turn out
that you can have the career you have always wanted without going
through the work I just outlined. I guess its possible. Im not sure
how probable it is. What I do know is this: If you think the current
job market is unpredictable, maybe even puzzling and disconcerting,
fasten your seat belt. The ride may get rougher. There are some work
place experts who say that 90% of the jobs as we know then today
will be gone within five years. The work wont be gone, but the way
it gets done will be. Are you ready for that? You can be, and in my
opinion, a strategic career plan can give you a great chance for a
much smoother and rewarding ride.