I’ve always believed your career is in your hands. Your boss wants you to do a good job and deliver value in your day-to-day role. Exceptional bosses take an interest in your career. But, they’re also busy and don’t have time to shephard you through the process of figuring out your long-term goals.
People who are successful have a goal in mind. Once they have a goal, they develop a strategy, or an action plan, that is wholistic, specific and distinctive. They see the market they’re in, what’s trending and make choices that separates them from everyone else.
During these pandemic times when we’re working from home and social distancing, we find ourselves with more time on our hands. This extra time allows us to think about our careers and spend time strategizing the future. The pandemic will end at some point and we’ll still need to go to work. Wouldn’t you like to plan for what that will look like long term?
Strategy does not need to be complex. Simply, you analyze your current state, have a vision for the future state, then put an action plan together to accomplish it. Companies can be good at creating these, but when it comes to our careers, we’re usually not.
I’ve preached to others about taking the time to strategize their careers. Now it was time to take my own advice and update my own! Below are the steps I’ve taken over the last two weeks. Hopefully, these can help you get going with your own personal strategy sessions.
Decide to do this and allocate time to get it done. On the surface, there’s not a lot of immediate ROI in spending time being strategic about your career. In today’s society, we want things now. But given you’ll be spending a good chunk of your awake hours at work, investing time now can have payoffs in the long run.
Don’t worry about putting in 8 hours a day at this. Take just 20, uninterrupted minutes each day thinking, researching, connecting, promoting, and doing what you feel is necessary. If there is someone you trust, have them hold you accountable to putting in the time.
Define your long-term goals. I actually have a couple tracks I’m looking at; project management speaking & training under my own Bridge the Gap Consulting, LLC company, or running a PMO or Chief Project Officer (or similar) for a global company. Don’t be afraid to go big! Remember, you won’t start job this tomorrow. It could be five or more years from now.
As I started working on my long-term goals, I felt it best to do a check-in with myself first. Assessments are a good place to start. I took Strengths Finder 2.0, a free version from High5, and the Meyers Briggs (I’m an ENTJ). There are other assessments out there. Find the one that best suits you. I also talked to a couple trusted peers I’ve worked with before, sharing my goals and gathering feedback from them.
Find your target job on Indeed, LinkedIn or other job searching sites. Take an inventory of what skills they’re looking for. What are some of the gaps you see in yourself? What skills, education, certifications or other do you need to acquire? Make a list of these as you move into the next part.
Where is the industry going? In the field of project management, there is a rise of the “Project Economy.” With advances in automation and technology, the way we work, align teams to the project goals and get projects done will change. Though this is something I align to anyway, I still need to learn more about it and how it could impact my long term goals.
Now, going back to your gaps list and what you need to obtain to get that future job. Of those items you wrote down, are any of them relevant in the future? Is there a different skill you should be focused on based on where the industry is going? Are there any thought leaders you could research and look at their predictions? All questions to ask as you move forward.
Make a “bite-sized” strategic plans and tactics. Want to know how not to achieve a goal? Make it too time-consuming too fast and expect immediate results. If you do see immediate results, you either worked incredibly hard, got lucky, or your goal wasn’t big enough.
Below is one of my favorite pictures of strategy and tactics. Strategy is like a river. It’s flowing a certain direction. It’s not always in straight line, sometimes the current is faster or slower, and there could be rapids that try to flip you, but you get end. You’ll also want to define when to get to the end of the river. Maybe you have a certain quarter in mind (i.e. end of Q3 2020), or maybe a year (i.e. 12/31/2021). In either case, the river needs to end, and you need to define it.
The tactics, or what you take on the strategic river, could be a kayak, motor boat, log, innertube, or any number of things that float. If you’re taking a motor boat, is it an inboard or outboard? How fast do you want to get there? Don’t use a power boat when a kayak will do. Because it’s up to you, there’s no right or wrong answer, just the method that will get you to where you want to go. Also, beware of the shores as there can be things that distract or try to flip you.
In my own journey, I’ve committed to carving out a minimum of 25 minutes a day. I say 25 because that’s about as long as my attention can be totally focused at one time before I need to stand up and move. Sometimes I can do more, but that is the exception.
In my goal to be a project management speaker and trainer, I have a strategy to create a training for small companies and nonprofits by the end of Q2 2020. My tactics are to research on these groups, understand their needs and/or problems they’re trying to solve, build a PowerPoint, create handouts, and develop a workbook to be used throughout the training. I’m also talking to other trainers to get tips and recommendations. All these tactics meet the Q2 2020 strategic goal.
The only person who will promote you, is you. I’m not talking about a promotion at work. I’m talking about you, your name, your brand, what people say or think when they hear your name. What does your LinkedIn profile say about you? How does your resume define you? How do those align to where you want to be? Find ways to get your name out there. Post on professional sites. Write or respond to articles or online conversations where you can add value. Find a way to get your name out there!
Invest in yourself during these unprecedented times. Take time to strategize your career. Set goals for where you want to be and tactics to get there. Hopefully, this whole pandemic will be past us quickly and we can move on with our lives. Wouldn’t it be great if you could move in a better direction?