Details of your career planning process might vary from those of other career-minded professionals, because each of you is a unique individual–coming from different backgrounds, possibly targeting different overarching career goals. However, the crux of the matter is: Are you staying on top of your own career planning?
I don’t have space to go into details, and you probably wouldn’t want to read them all anyway, but I wanted to touch on a few key elements.
First, it’s important to mention that career planning is not something you do at the very beginning of your professional career and then file away as a done deal. It’s an ongoing process. So, even if you’re now a senior manager or executive, it wouldn’t be a smart move to ignore career planning in your professional activities.
Just as you need an effective plan to conduct a successful job search, you need a well-thought-out career planning process.
The three phases shown in the accompanying graphic are self-assessment, exploration, and taking action. In this post I’m focusing on exploration and taking action.
What you do in the way of career exploration could look quite different depending on what stage you’ve reached in your career. Early on, you’d probably do a lot of activities such as informational interviewing (one of my colleagues calls it intelligence gathering). Mid-career or later, you might spend more time on activities such as workshops and conferences related to your field or industry, where you could find out about potentially interesting possibilities from your peers and other individuals to help you map your next moves.
If you’re thinking of breaking new ground – i.e., taking your career in a direction it hasn’t gone before – you definitely need to explore your options and the pros and cons of each course. Big moves, big accomplishments, don’t happen by accident!
The main purpose of career exploration, though, is to scope-out near-term and long-term career opportunities that appeal to you, offer good potential for professional growth, and have reasonably robust prospects for the future. For example, they’re in a growing industry rather than one that’s declining, technology matches well with them rather than sidelining them, and so on.
It’s no use doing thorough planning if your plans never get off the drawing board. Once you’ve decided where you’re heading next, you need to implement the actions that will help ensure you get there.
Logically, you’ll want to consider resources that fit where you are in the process. Some of your actions might involve the application of low-tech measures, such as good, old-fashioned, in-person networking and relationship-building. Done right, low-tech is a perfectly workable approach and can help you reach your goal.
On the other hand, you might find times in your career planning that call for using more high-tech tools. Luckily, these days that gives you quite a bit of scope for your actions. The important point is that you focus on DOING, not just thinking about it. A tremendous amount of thinking went into the actions that resulted in launching the Space Station, but those responsible for making it happen didn’t stop with thinking about it. They took action!
So the question is: Are you taking steps to advance your career planning–and, ultimately, your career? If you haven’t started yet, are you ready to take action?
Remember, nothing good will happen if you sit on your hands!