If you are like me, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through your career past the next position or title or perhaps even the next pay check. I have probably spent the better part of my career being more tactical and reactive than truly sitting down and thinking through what my long term plan was going to be. By nature I am very adaptable and can quickly pick up new skills and fit into most work situations. Couple that with the fact that I have always moved from one position to the next without out being on the market. These things seem to combine to keep me from having to worry about the distant future. It’s not that I didn’t stop every now and then to consider my future, but I would quickly get overwhelmed with all the various scenarios and components that come with plotting out your future.
It seems like a lot of us run into this. In the past, it may have been easier because it was about upward mobility. So our career paths seemed locked in for us and we just sat back and built out skills and waited for that opening above. These days I think career paths are taking less and less of a linear path. More and more people are transitioning from are career to the next, many times taking a more interesting lateral move than just that next rung in the ladder. In many ways this complicates the ability to plan long term for our future, because if we can’t see a clear straight path or solid destination then how do we plan?
Being on the open market has allowed me to really sit down and think through my career plan. Having a passion and background in strategy and planning, I naturally began to think about my career as more of a strategic plan. In strategic planning you don’t always have a straight and clear path. You set an aspirational vision and start plotting a course. I have started to take the major components around strategy and planning and applying them as such:
Have Mission: A company’s mission is meant to describe who they are to their stakeholders. In much the same way, an individual should be able to articulate their strengths, weakness and skills.
Create a Vision: A vision describes how a company wants to be described by its customers in the future. It’s not meant to be specific and the best visions inspire us to push forward.
Know Your Values: You should be taking time to understand what motivates you professionally and personally. Is it money, is it title, is it the type of work?
Set a Plan: With your vision front and center, start to plot a course for reaching it. This includes knowing what types of skills you need to develop, what experiences do you need to have, etc, to progress toward that vision?
Monitor: With any strategic plan you need to track that you are still moving toward your vision. This means regular check ins to ensure you are following your plan or even to level-set to see if your vision still inspires you.
Over the next several posts I plan to dive further into each of these components in separately. I will share some tips I have learned and would love to hear any you may have.