Plan your career goals – don’t leave your career path to chance

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A successful career requires planning and a vision.  My last blog, Job vs career, which do you have? focused on how to build a career vision. Once you have a vision, you need to have a plan. Setting career goals for yourself and acting on your goals helps you to stay on track. This blog will take you through a few ways to get organized and get started with career planning.

Professional skills evaluation

Skill level can be key in helping you to stand out from your peers. You have transferable skills (which every employer needs you to have to some extent) and technical skills which are specific to your job role.

Common categories of transferable skills are communication, leadership, collaboration/working with people, problem solving, and organizational skills. I’ve included some references at the end of this blog with links to a few different articles with specific examples.

Technical skills can also be transferable – like proficiency with common applications like spreadsheets. Or they can be a very specific to your role. Combining transferable technical skills with specific ones can give you an additional competitive edge over peers and colleagues.

So, with so many potential skills to focus on, how do you decide?  The best way to start is by doing a little skills self-evaluation. Think about the most important skills (both transferable and technical) needed on your job today and on the one you’d like to get to in the future. Rank the importance high, medium or low and then compare to your own level.

Learning plan

Once you have identified the skills you want to brush up on, you can set your goals for learning in a “learning plan”.  A learning plan includes :

  • Learning topic

  • Specific learning source

  • Timeline to completion

The sources for learning are almost endless. Books, article, videos, courses of a wide variety are out there. Many employers provide learning opportunities for key technical skills and even transferable skills.  But even if your employer does not, you can find broad sources online like LinkedIn Learning or in domain specific communities.

You can also learn by doing – find someone to shadow, ask for a stretch project.

Professional network

A professional network is critical to a successful career. The people in your network can help you learn, broaden your experience, and yes, help you get to the next level or even the one beyond that. Cultivating and maintaining a professional network take time and effort, so create some goals around your network.  Where to focus? Here are a few ideas of areas where you will want to spend time based on where you are at in your career.

  • Maintaining relationships

  • Seeking out new mentors

  • Connecting with sponsors

Your network can be built from people you meet physically or virtually. My blog Building your professional network goes through some key resources you can use to begin to add people to your network.

Maintaining contact with your network is just as important. When you are co-located with them, that’s simple enough. For your virtual network however, that takes some focus. Share information with your network on a regular basis. Collaborate with them on sticky problems. Offer your experience and help them with their sticky problems.

Need to learn something new – look at your network to find a mentor. Offer your own expertise to others as a mentor.

Planning your next role? Talk to your sponsors. These are the people in your network who are part of the influencer group for hiring specific roles which you are interested in, and who know and respect you well enough to back you as a candidate.  Don’t have any? Start to identify people who could play this role in the future and make your work and skills visible to them. For a more extensive look at where to find new contacts, how to engage, how to deepen the connection and how to maintain your network, checkout the reference article Networking 101.

Bring it all together

Once you have really thought through where the gaps are today in your skills and your network, you can start to prioritize your goals by importance and urgency. Build your short-term career goals into your calendar and your routine. Revisit your career goals regularly to stay on track and adjust your long-term career goals.

Get the free, Career Planning Workbook to help you work through the steps above. Having trouble staying on track? Get help to start and keep yourself accountable – get a career coach. Contact me now for a free career coaching discovery session to see if career coaching is right for you.