One of the most important things that you can do to help you advance your career is to create a plan. With any challenge, setting clear, and S.M.A.R.T. goals is the best way to ensure your success.
Having a successful career is surely a huge challenge for most of us. The key to career success is to have both a short-term and long-term career map.
With anything you want to achieve, you have to have a clear end goal before you can map out the process. Your career is not different. So, you need to define what position you want to end up with at the height of your career.
According to CNN Money, Gen Xers and Millennials tend to change careers twice as often as baby boomers. So I suggest you make this position something you can achieve within 20 years. Going beyond that time-frame would not be a realistic goal.
When you think about a new job, you may tend to pick a specific job title. However, if you are mapping out your career plan, it is more important to define the characteristics of the target job.
Job titles tend to change and morph over time so the responsibilities of the job today may not exist in 20 years. For your 20 year job, you need to list the things about that role that make it attractive to you.
What type of company will you work for? What will your responsibilities be? Will you have direct reports? What will your work-life balance look like?
These are the types of things you should be thinking about for a 20 year time period.
Your Mid-Career Goal
In order to ensure success in your career, you career map needs to be very detailed. Part of this level of detail is a 3 tiered goal. You need to have a 5 year, 10 year and a 20 year goal.
The shorter term goals need to have more detail than the longer term goals. As such, the 10 year goal should answer the questions we asked about the 20 year job with more specificity.
You should understand your industry enough now to be able to identify specific companies in your line of work. Part of your 10 year plan should be to list 5 companies that you would like to work for within 10 years. You can include your current company as well.
At 20 years, it was difficult to narrow down a job title, however in 10 years little may change in terms of the names of positions. Identify a handful of positions that you would like to hold within 10 years. Hint, don’t name a position that is only one level up from your current one. These goals should challenge you and moving up one level in 10 years is not going to push you to make big changes.
Now, you should take into consideration the fact that this position should be halfway or more to your 20 year goal. If you are a VP and your 20 year goal is in the C-Suite, there aren’t very many positions between the two. So you may only need to move up 1 or 2 levels in 10 years.
The 5 Year Plan
The plan for where you want your career to be in 5 years should be the easiest one. It is always easier to plan for the short term when the long term has been mapped out.
Realistically, you may only have 1-3 promotions within a 5 year span. You may already have an idea of what your next move is going to be. Hopefully you have already been networking and positioning yourself for the next promotion. These are the types of things you need to do for a 5 year plan.
You should be thinking about who can you learn from to help you with your next move?
What skills are required?
Is there some software that you can learn to help your career move forward?
Maybe there is a project in that department you can volunteer for to give you exposure.
This level of detail is necessary for a 5 year time-frame. Many positions require 3-5 years of experience doing something similar to qualify. That does not give you much time to prepare for that 5 year goal.
This brings us to the most crucial part of this whole process. The first part of the process involves mapping out your desires and the goals for your career and life. The next step is to ensure that you get there.
Within every one of these steps, you need to understand what is required to get from one step to the next. What are the job requirements for the 5 year job? Will you need to acquire additional education? What will it take to obtain the experience needed?
Hopefully, your 5 year job is putting you in a position to meet the requirements of the Mid-Career goal. The same thing applies to the 20 year goal. This is the reason I feel it was important to start at the end of your career. You should have naturally chosen jobs that all fall within some sort of progression.
However, it is still important to do the research across all jobs. You may need a Masters degree to be competitive at the Mid-career role. Maybe you need a certification at the 20 year level that you didn’t need at the 10 year level. These requirements should not discourage your, but you need to be adequately prepared for them.
So, to sum it up:
Start with the end goal.
Get progressively detailed and specific as you move towards more recent goals.
Outline the steps you need to take in preparation for each move.
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