What Career Plan? ‘Non-existent’ many will shout!
Most of us will spend in excess of 80,000 hours working during our lifetime and so we want that time to matter to us. Strangely though, many avoid career planning, in fact lots of us put more hours into planning our holiday or a house move than we do our career. Perhaps it’s because the thought of spending hours setting out a long-term goal with a detailed plan of every step we going to have to take to get there, simply puts us off, we feel overwhelmed, don’t have a clue where to start or even what we want from our career.
Even if we have a career goal in mind, in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“A goal is just a dream without a plan”.
Put simply, a career plan is practical strategy that sets out the actions that you will take to achieve your desired goal.
STOP! I hear some of you shouting…what if I don’t know what my goal is?
Your story so far…
Well, a good place to start is with a little time travel, going back to the beginning of your career journey and stopping off along the way to visit and learn from your highs and lows, and to help you decide on your future aspirations and goals.
Tap into those memories and ask yourself;
- how and when did I do my best work?
- what skills and strengths have I developed and love to use?
- what subjects, topics and situations have sparked my curiosity, interest and motivation?
- when have I felt I’ve made an impact and why?
- what environments have given me the chance to be at my best?
- are there any patterns or links emerging?
- which roles made me feel happy and why?
- what experiences would I like to have more of?
I’ve had many coaching clients who’ve admitted after doing this exercise, that they always just glossed over the lows in their career and have avoided really exploring what was happening at that point. Yet when approached differently, looking for what the situation could tell them about why they hadn’t been happy, they felt confident to be able to take that insight and learning, and use it to help navigate future career decisions.
Once you’re back from your ‘story so far’ time travel, it’s time to think about who you are when at your best, what matters to you most and how you would now define future success in your career.
Let me introduce you to…
The Career Equation®
Erica Sosna, the founder of Career Matters, has a great definition for what a career is…
”a career is a series of choices where we explore how to align our gifts with how we spend our time and how we make our money”.
So my friends, with the world of work changing so fast and new job titles appearing every day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about how we decide on the right career for us or just the right next step.
Fear not, at Career Matters we have a great little tool to help us unpick the tangled careers web, we call it The Career Equation®. It’s designed to help us gain clarity, empower us to make great career decisions and understand what needs to be in play in order for us to thrive in the world of work.
We believe that when we work in an area of skill and strength, we are passionate and curious about the subject matter, we are having the kind of impact that is important to us and crucially, this is all happening in an environment that suits our uniqueness, then we will have a thriving career.
Take a look at our The Career Equation® video. Then ask yourself…how would you score your current role in relation to each of the 4 elements out of 10 at the moment? Is there some room for manoeuvre? If so, what could you do to improve your scores?
What you see is what you get
There’s definitely something to be said for opening your mind up to the possible and creating a vision of your future career. What’s more, the stronger your vision, the more likely you are to spot opportunities, the stronger your determination will be to get there and you’ll have greater resilience to keep going, even when the going gets tough!
Start by asking yourself:
What really matters to me in my career?
Now, I know financial compensation is important, so being paid a good and fair wage will I’m sure be on the list…but what else? Maybe you love to look after the wellbeing of others, or you want to influence society to live greener and more socially responsible lives. Perhaps you want to design products for the future, or you want to entertain audiences and make them laugh. Then ask:
How do I define success?
It’s easy to get swept along in our careers sometimes, pleasing everyone else but ourselves and then suddenly finding that we are living other people’s vision of success and not our own. Taking some time to define what success in our career looks and feels like is a really valuable exercise.
Spend a little time making a list of the things that are important to you when it comes to career success. Do you love to lead innovative projects? Provide awesome customer service? Educate the next generation? Rescue and care for wildlife? Design unique furniture? Working with others? Travelling? No list will be the same, after all, we’re all different. But having a list will help, when you start to look for options and opportunities in the future, you can compare them to your success list and have more clarity about the things you should or shouldn’t go for.
Making the career dream a reality
So, now you have a stronger picture of your career aspirations and better clarity on what would make you happy and feeling fulfilled, it’s important to set yourself some goals to help measure your progress towards achieving the dream.
Setting goals that are too far into the distance and too big can be counter-productive, they often begin to feel unmanageable, daunting and overwhelming, thus quite quickly and in turn becoming unachievable, demotivating and disempowering.
After all, as Desmond Tutu once wisely put it
“There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time”.
So, setting smaller goals that are milestones towards a bigger and a more long-term aspiration or mission, are much more empowering, achievable and rewarding.
Making sure your goals are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) is important too, that way it’s much easier to track, evidence your progress and easily show others how far you’ve come. In fact, it’s often helpful to have an accountability partner (a friend, colleague, mentor etc) who can act as a sort of referee who can clearly see your achievements.
Let’s take the aspiration of being a furniture designer, where would we begin? Well, one thing’s for sure, it won’t happen overnight! So, starting with a goal that can be achieved within 6-18 months is a good place to start:
“By December 2021, I will have completed a C&G Level 3 Diploma in Furniture Design & Making”
Walk backwards from success
Once you have a SMART goal, it’s time to work out steps you need to take to achieve it. But here’s a career planning tip; start by imaging you’ve achieved it, and after you’ve finished giving yourself a massive pat on the back, jot down the steps you will have taken to get there, starting with just before you achieved it and working backwards to the first actions you could take today to get you started. Then off you go!
Like any journey, there will be ups and downs but maybe just start with one of the above ideas and see where that takes you, it might just give you the momentum to carry on and feel as though you’re managing your career rather that it managing you. Remember, each step forward comes with personal insight and growth, you are meant to thrive… you just have to find the right landscape. Good luck on your adventures!
Career Matters – Career Consultant
Zoë is a Career Consultant, Career Coach and Facilitator for Erica Sosna’s Career Matters. With a private and public sector background, she’s developed a wealth of experience as a manager and transformation agent. She’s super passionate about organizational culture, personal development and wellbeing. She loves to help people thrive in their careers and explore who they are when at their best.
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