I love to engage people about how they are approaching their careers, and over the past few years I've had some interesting conversations. The question that is simple on the surface but not so simple if you haven't done the homework is, "What do you want to do?". The responses I've heard have ran the gamut from "Not sure" to "My plan 'A' has to work". While there is no one correct way to approach career planning, the pitfall most of us fall into is not answering this question with the specificity needed to obtain the results we are seeking.
In order for you to have an effective strategy for your career, you must answer at least three questions:
1) Who Am I? - This question is at the very essence of your existence and the key to what will fulfill you. Let's look at it this way, if your values become your compass, your strengths serve as the steering wheel, and your motivations translate to the engine that drives you, then where are you going?
Answering this first question can give you the information you need to make decisions that align with where you want to go. Having your values, strengths, and motivation point you in the direction that is best for you should make it easy to answer question #2.
2) How Do I Define Success? The word "success" is overused and at times overrated. Let's describe this question as the ultimate state you desire for your life that will satisfy you. What will be fulfilling to you may change at different phases of your life, so let's focus on the next 3-5 years and make it a simple effort to scope.
Complete This Sentence: I would be satisfied if I _________ in the next 3 years.
Start here and reverse engineer what it will take to achieve your goal within the timeframe you choose.
3) What Am I Willing To Do To Obtain It? This is where you find out how committed you are to obtaining the state you say you want in question #2. Be realistic about what is achievable so that you have a workable plan. If you can't commit to what is required then revise it until it is feasible. Small and consistent progress is better than grand intentions any day!
I am not minimizing the fact that there are more questions that come into play before you can finalize your plan. Most times when people can answer these three questions, there is no doubt they have done the introspection required to confidently move forward.
When I was first asked the question "What do I want?" by an executive, my response was embarrassing because I didn't have an intelligent answer. The realization that I really didn't know what I wanted hit me like a ton of bricks. I stumbled to find the words to tell her and while she didn't say it - we both knew I wasn't ready.
Since then I have created a career planning template that I still use today and while details of my plan may change from time to time, I'm never at a loss to state or explain the path I am creating for myself. My advice to you is simply this: Take the necessary steps to discover what you want and then be able to articulate it in a way that engages anyone who asks. People won't know how to help if you can't effectively state what you want.
If you are beyond this phase, congratulations, keep pushing toward your goal! However, if you need help determining what you want in your next job, then take the time to answer these three questions and get intentional about your career plan - this is your future.
About The Author
Stacey Rivers is an IT professional and the author of the book "50 Essential Tips to Getting & Keeping The 'Right' Job". Follow her on Twitter @staceyrivers13 or staceyrivers.com.
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