This column receives many questions throughout the year about specific issues related to career management. Recently, we've touched on job security and progressing in your profession. This week we'll address some ways to develop both defensive and offensive career strategies.
Few people actively manage their careers. Most people get a job, then a few years later they get another, followed by another and by the time they reach 40 they don't have a career, they've just had a series of very similar jobs—and the future looks like Groundhog Day.
However, when you understand new career management strategies, you have what it takes to break away from the pack and bring your career dreams and goals to reality.
The Best Offense Starts with a Good Defense
The new career management starts with protecting the job you have and using it to prepare yourself for greater things along your chosen path.
Companies exist to make money, just like Me Inc. The job you hold today exists for one simple reason: to identify, anticipate, prevent and solve problems—within your sphere of responsibility—that interfere with the company's ability to make money.
Regardless of your job title, this means your over-arching responsibility is to become a superior problem-solver within your area of expertise. This will lead you to engage in your work at a higher level, where you will:
- Anticipate, identify and reduce the frequency of the problems that occur within your areas of responsibility.
- Solve the problems and challenges that still occur within those areas in an efficient, professional, timely and collegial manner.
- Execute your duties in ways that show respect for the responsibilities of others, who in turn must deal with the product of your work.
- Learn something from every problem you tackle to improve personal productivity by anticipating preventable problems and reducing the impact of the unpreventable ones.
Develop an Actionable Career Plan
A sound defensive strategy gives you a firm foundation to go on the offensive, pursuing your long-term goals. Life can fly by while you are making plans to have one. So, if you are serious about getting ahead and bringing your dreams to life, you can't procrastinate. Start now:
- Set concrete long-term goals and envision the path you'll need to take. Mark off these stepping stones:
- I want to get to (goal) ___________ by (date) ______.
- I'll need (these skills) ___________ by (date) ______.
- That will mean gaining (this experience) ___________ by (date) ______.
- Identify each of the smaller steps you must take to reach each stepping stone along the path to your longer-term goals.
Then break each of those smaller steps down into a sequence of individual actions; something/anything, however small, that you can do today. Thus, your dreams that have grown into goals, supported by plans detailed enough to give you a sequence of unintimidating small tasks. The secret to success is simply a plan of attack broken down into small enough steps so that there is always something you can do now—today.
But I'm Too Busy
Making a success of your career doesn't come easy and while we're all busy we still manage to spend countless hours watching Netflix or scrolling through Twitter. So whatever your goals are in life, reinvest some of that time into taking steps to where you want to go. Invest yourself in working toward the life you want.
If Not Now, Then When?
When you know where you stand today and where you want to stand tomorrow, you can build a path that takes you step by step towards your destination. But if you don't start, you can't expect to hit your target.
Creating the fulfilled and successful life you want can't be achieved overnight. But when you are serious about making it happen, it can be done. Start that journey today, and never let anything distract you from manifesting your destiny.
Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look& forward to hearing from you!
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