If you were to reflect on your career planning and management, what would you say the ratio of choice versus chance would be, do you think?
Your Career- Choice or Chance_ (Audio)
Did you or do you have a career plan that you are enthusiastically pursuing each month, each year, or did you “fall into your career”, like many of us did?
Did you plan and pro-actively pursue each of your last say 3 roles, or did you also “fall into them”, often as a result of them “just happening” or someone approaching you for them? Whose agenda did you think they primarily served – yours or theirs?
I do a lot of career planning and career management coaching in my work. While almost every coaching program involves some degree of personal goals and career focus, I have noticed a far greater incidence of people at “forks in their road” recently and given the amount of dedication to that, thought illuminating some of the more typical scenarios may prove useful in a blog.
Firstly, do you have a vision for yourself and your career? Do you really know where you are going? If not, how will you ever know what you are shooting for in your career and what it might look like when you will get there? What is it that really matters to you in your life’s work? If you don’t know what you stand for, won’t you run the risk that you could “fall for anything”?
I have used the yachting metaphor frequently where if a yacht on the ocean has no rudder, it is at the mercy of the elements and will probably allow the tide and prevailing winds to drive it wherever they happen it to, right? However, putting a rudder in the water and controlling it with a tiller enables steering the yacht to wherever the skipper wills it to go, tacking its way there by utilizing the winds to get it there. Just like not having or having a goal, isn’t it?
Remember Alice in Wonderland asking the Cheshire cat at the fork in the road, which fork she should take? When the cat asked where she wanted to go, and she replied that it didn’t matter. You may recall that the cat then retorted: “well then it doesn’t really matter which one you take, does it?”
When I check in with a large number of business people at all levels and in most careers what their career vision might be, they often don’t know or it lies so far back that they have lost sight of it.
I have also found that others are so busy “doing” that they don’t stop to take the time to figure out where they are at, and whether this “doing” is in fact taking them where they want to go. Our roles are often so challenging and so exciting that we could run the risk of being too focused on “staying on top” or just following “the next rush”, irrespective of our bigger picture, right?
Also, please also don’t underestimate the power of writing your vision down. It is an important catalyst to get these things moving for you, as I wrote in The Blue Honda, even if you are updating it.
Career management and career planning
Although we usually start something with planning, career planning is a subset of career management, which is the overall process of “driving” one’s career to where you would want it to go.
However, the above vision sets the “end game pictures” in place, and what I have found works best with my clients, is if we are able work backwards from those “big picture scenarios” for that career. Of course many people find that “big picture” setting quite difficult, and we often need to invest quite some effort in guiding them to do that, but it works. This is one area where your coach can really assist you.
Once that is in place, we can pro-actively plan the relevant possibilities that could lead to the attainment of those “big pictures”, as I also outlined in Planning in Scenarios, figuring out like we do in a chess game what doors a move opens and which it closes. Clients usually find that quite liberating and exciting, because suddenly they can see different ways of getting there and often feel less “trapped” by their circumstances.
Then it becomes a matter of managing the career along those paths, pro-actively instead of reactively.
How do we do that?
I have developed a process whereby we look at a client’s personal career to that current point, taking their background, education and all their experience, strengths, challenges, loves and hates into account; assessing what worked well and where they “got lost”.
Looking at the “big picture end game scenarios” they aspire to, we look at the likely roles that could lead to that from where they are. We differentiate preferences and pros’ and con’s of large Corporates over SME’s (Small to Medium sized Enterprises) over Consulting or Contracting, specialist versus generalist roles up to whether, when and how they might want to start their own business.
We look at conventional career steps that may be typical in their profession or their industry. We explore how we might look at less conventional approaches or possibilities, and where we might use Leap Frogging to speed up the process. We certainly emphasize that the specific skills that enabled their success in their professional “silo’s” won’t suffice to assure their growth and success in the future and how they can best acquire the necessary and right “soft skills” that will.
I have developed a technique whereby they create a database of experience, expertise, attributes and skills that those various potential future roles could require or expect. This is overlaid with their ranking of their current skill level over those attributes and what we might need to do to close any gaps in order to make them eligible for pursuing each such roles in the shorter, medium and longer term.
It is quite amazing to watch them “light up” as their vision is developed, they start seeing with some clarity what they could achieve and more importantly how pro-actively they can then go about managing their careers towards their desired outcomes – tailored very specifically to them. They know exactly Who is driving your Bus?, where it could be going and how to get there.
So when last have you sat down either by yourself or with a mentor or supporting professional to do a Taking Stock on your career? Do you really confidently know where you are going? Have you defined your “end game big picture scenarios”? Do you have clarity about how you will get there? Will you get to say age 60 and look back with great satisfaction, or regret?
If so, what are you doing to assist others in developing that for themselves as we discussed in Mentoring?
If not, when do you think it will be time for you to “bash a stake in the ground” and take more control over your career and your aspirations? And when you do, how much better do you think you could do justice to those aspirations for you and the impact that might have on your life and that of your loved ones?
What if you chose a professional coach to accompany you on such a journey? To be your sounding board; your thinking partner; to challenge your thinking and stretch you so you set and chase some inspiring goals to where you want to really be? And then hold you accountable to never slipping back into “reactive mode” when you know what you can achieve in “pro-active mode”? And to connect you with a bunch of relevant people in their network that can fulfill areas of need that they can’t cover themselves?
Wouldn’t that make sure that you had choices instead of leaving your “golden goose” to chance? Don’t you think it might help you Leaping out of Bed instead of “groaning out of bed to yet another day…?
Go on, what if you could?