(This post takes about 3 minutes to read)
Most of us make sure our cars are maintained regularly – because they are a big investment. Likewise, if we notice something wrong in our house, we fix it. Knowing that health is important, we do regular checkups. I could argue your career is nearly as important as all of those things. Think of it this way. If you work 40 years with an average salary of $50,000 per year, you will make $2 million in your work life. Isn’t that worth paying a little attention to?
Yet few people spend much time on their career plan. Why is that? We go about our day, generally mindlessly doing what we always do. Some people “hate to plan”. Some are “too busy”. Some of us “will get to it next week or month or year or decade”. But for most of us, it is simply because we don’t think about having to create a plan.
For all of you, I have a short outline of three thoughts to get you started.
First – Devote time
Devote one hour a month to thinking about your career path. That is a small sliver of your time.Write down these questions and answer them honestly. Why do you want to keep doing what you are doing now? Why do you want to stay with the company you are currently working for? In what 2-3 ways has work been good the last month? In what 2-3 ways has work been bad the last month?
The more open-ended questions you have, the better. Keep this in a small journal. Compare what you say today to what you wrote previous months. What patterns are you noticing?
Second – Commit to connect . . . and reconnect
Commit to connecting with at least one new person each month and reconnecting with one acquaintance or co-worker each month. Notice I deliberately avoided the dreaded “N” word – Networking. Networking is defined as “interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career”. Most people recoil at the thought of networking. It sounds phony. That is why I recommend you think of engaging others as “connecting”.
Connecting does not have to be anything formal or awkward. Meet for lunch, coffee or a drink. Call them. Commit to being somewhere they are going to be (church, meeting, party) and reach out beforehand to say “let’s talk” before, during or after the event. You never know what you might learn. You might even make a new friend.
In this context, to connect means to meet with someone you do not know at all. Reconnecting means getting back together with someone from your past – former co-worker, college friend, ex-neighbor, little league coaches or parents.
Having a set of people you connect with is the best way to keep your career moving forward. New ideas. New opportunities. Reminders of accomplishments long forgotten. These are all there, courtesy of people.
Third – once a year, plan
Once a year, do a complete career plan. Just like most of us have to look at our health care choices once a year, let’s do the same with our career plan. You pick when you want to do it. At the end of the year, start of the year, in the summer at the beach. Your career plan can look like whatever you want.
Here are some ideas to structure your plan.
Reflect on the past year. How has the last year gone both in work and in life? Look at your monthly journal entries. Write down a few trends you notice. Think ahead. What are ideas/goals for the next year?
Ponder this scenario. If your current job went away tomorrow, what would be your ideal job to take its place? Write as much detail as you can. Where would you work? For Whom? Doing what? What kind of commute? In an office or working from home?
Name 2-3 ways you are preparing yourself for that “ideal” job (education, connecting with others, reading, doing similar volunteer work, etc.). If you aren’t doing anything, what could you do this coming year? Be specific.
Maybe the most important question is to ask yourself to write about your career/life blend. The blend is where your energy is being invested, where it is growing and where it is being drained. What is the ideal blend look like? How close or far away from that blend am I? What are three actions I can take to get closer? How is my blend in sync with my spouse/significant other?
And a bonus fourth thought
Keep yourself accountable. Track this information on a something tangible – a journal, a spreadsheet, white board, phone app. Hire a coach. Having an outsider as a sounding board is a great way to really probe your plan.
So there you go. A career plan that takes less than a full day over the course of the year, less than .3% of your time. Why not get started now? Need help? Check my website for some ideas http://deanwaggenspack.weebly.com. Or connect/reconnect with me. I would love to hear from you!