Are you new to career planning or are you sick of using templates that don't actually help you achieve your career goals? In this post, I'm going to be sharing with you the career success process that actually works.
Let's Be Real About Career Planning...
I've been through the useless snoozefest process that is annual career planning at most organizations.
You know the one, you usually sit down with your manager once a year, and together you define the things that you're going to work on. Usually, it's oriented towards the goal for the company, or in most cases actually oriented towards improving yourself. So you're finding the thing that you're least good at, and you're creating goals to actually change that thing.
The thing is, once you actually create this plan, it usually gets put into a file somewhere on your computer, or if you're old school, a physical location, and you never look at it again until one year later, when it comes to annual review time.
And then what usually happens is you have a good laugh, either just to yourself, or with your manager about how hilariously off the mark all of those goals and intentions were.
But also you realize that you didn't make any progress on the things that you intended to make progress on it all.
The process that I'm going to share with you is about setting intention, and structure into actually achieving what you want to in your career. Whether you're looking to get a promotion, transition into a new role, or become an authority within your industry, this career success plan is going to help you get exactly there.
Best of all - you'll want to utilize it on a regular basis. It's actually going to be one of the most useful tools that you create for yourself.
This is actually a sample of what I do with my clients in my Career Accelerator. But this is so important that I really want every ambitious professional to have it, and hence, I'm sharing it with you today.
Begin with the end in mind
This is actually one of the principles of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (here's my affiliate link if you're interested in buying the book - also feel free to look it up on Amazon). If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it to every professional.
The huge benefit of beginning with the end in mind is if you start where you are, you're not always sure of where you want to go and the steps required to get there.
However, if you've defined your career vision, you know where your ultimate destination is. Now you can actually reverse engineer the steps and milestones in order to get you there, which we're going to do in this process. If you read my last post, and you've already created your career vision, you have this step 50% squared away.
Now there's one more thing that I do recommend that you include here, though it is actually optional in your career success plan. Define your values; who you want to be as you make this ascent through your career.
This is actually getting a little bit into having a professional mission statement or a personal mission statement. The reason that I love having this combination of your values and your vision is it's really going to help you not just set the milestones that you need to follow in order to reach your destination. It's also going to help you when we get into the points where you're planning out the specific tasks in order to get you there.
Because who you want to be, your strengths, and who and how you want to be known really plays a critical role in creating the right plan to get there.
And having the right plan in place is really the differentiator between the plan that you use, and the one that ends up in the file being absolutely useless.
Define your success metrics
How are you going to know when you've actually achieved this goal metrics really matter?
Having some sort of quantifiable or as qualitatively clear as possible objective that you're actually working towards is going to help in creating the steps of the success plan. There is one caveat here and this is where a lot of my clients actually struggle to find clarity.
There's one thing that I encourage you to do, and that is to be specifically non specific.
What does that mean?
Well, the thing is, if you're - especially thinking about your levels - a job title can be a generally ambiguous thing. Your job title at a different company might have completely different connotation. And also, if you're navigating between different sizes of companies, there may be different levels that map together within those based on where you're actually at.
One of the mistakes that I actually personally made in my career success plan and my five year vision was that I had a level that I had assigned to make it easy for me to think about, and to talk about the level that I wanted to be at.
What actually ended up happening is, when I achieved this level, I completely wasn't aware of it.
The reason I wasn't aware is because I had assigned a title that didn't map exactly to the title in my vision. Luckily, it didn't take me completely off path or end a high level of frustration over several years for me. But it did actually lead me on a path to try to achieve something that I had actually already achieved.
What does this actually mean for you?
If you're setting goals put them in terms of level in both in the title based on your understanding of the role where you are right now, as well as putting a description of what that it looks like.
For example, if your goal is to be a Director, you may choose to put into your vision and your milestones that you want to reach the director level, but also qualify that you want to be managing managers - because you could be a senior manager at a large organization with much higher scope than a director at a smaller company. You see what I'm saying?
Define the milestones
Does your career vision kind of scare you?
If you have big hairy audacious dreams for yourself and really want to go far in your career, it can feel really far away from where you're at, you can kind of feel like you're sitting down and being told to eat an elephant.
So how do you eat an elephant?
Well, one bite at a time, of course.
And the milestones are going to be what actually helps break this down into bite sized pieces for you. Let's follow our example of the vision of being a director that I mentioned in the last step. So let's say that your five year career goal is to become a director so you put a label to it but you've also described what that actually looks like. Now what you can do is actually set the milestones in order to get there. So just for the purpose, of example, most people if you work in tech, are looking at getting a promotion every 18 to 24 months. You want to actually back up from there. If you want to be a director, you probably need to be promoted to say, a senior manager, 24 months in. So that's two years in advance. So your three year milestone is to get that promotion to senior manager. Let's say that you're just a consultant right now. So there's still another step there is becoming an actual manager. So what you do, again, using our 18 to 24 month benchmark, let's say that your goal within the next 18 months is a milestone. Within the next 18 months is to be promoted to manager.
This makes it so much more achievable when you see that it is actually just simple steps at reasonable timelines.
Now, if your goal is to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in the next five years, but you have actually just started and you're a new graduate, this may be too far of a stretch goal. You do want to base this in reality. But base it in an aggressive reality, because when you are someone who is focused, determined and exceptional, the aggressive timelines that you set for yourself, are going to be ones that you're going to be able to achieve.
This process doesn't just apply to any promotions that you actually want to map towards.
This applies to all sorts of career goals.
Let's say that you're working towards getting a certification or you eventually want to go and moonlight to do your MBA. Once again, you can back them the steps that you need to actually achieve that goal into your plan and set them as milestones in the plan. So that you have a timeline of where you need to be and when you need to be there.
Create the actual tasks in order to achieve the plan
While you'll have your milestones, generally for your 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, you don't need to plan all of your tasks against five years. There is just way too many variables that you cannot control or you don't have accurate visibility of at this point in time, so investing time into actually planning out all of the steps for you to become a director or VP, or an industry expert just doesn't make sense.
However, the next year, you do have enough visibility that you can actually anticipate the things that you generally need to do.
And especially within the next six months.
In the plan, you still want to make sure that the milestones to achieve those big goals, the big outcomes according to your vision are outlined, this is going to keep your visibility there. As you actually generate the tasks that lead to your micro milestones, they're all going to be there and it's going to help keep them front of mind because you were going to have a visual on them regularly.
Now what you should do for your next year is outline the milestones that need to be hit and the next 12, six, three, and one month period of time.
Let's say that we are going with the goal of becoming a speaker at a conference and your 12 month milestone is to have a session booked at a conference session accepted.
What you can do is you actually everse engineer that. So within 12 months, you want to have that booked. Let's say within six months, you need to have your outline of your sessions that you are going to apply. And you need to know what conferences going back a step, your goal in the next three months is to actually research what conferences are available and what type of content they're actually looking for.
Then let's say that you're new to public speaking and the thought of doing this actual session at the conference is really freaking you out. Maybe something that you want to do in the next 30 days is join an organization like Toastmasters, which helps get you experience public speaking and it really helps to prepare you to those improvisation moments that always happen when you're on stage.
And that's something that you can do in most major cities, there's multiple chapters that you can join, so that makes it actually really easy thing. So that goes into your task list. And it's also a milestone, maybe you set additional tasks throughout in the next 12 months time, block it on your calendar that you're going to attend those regular meetings.
You would also want to make sure that you also put into your calendar when you need to put it in the applications for those conferences when you have the outlines.
If you plan on collaborating with any of your peers or out or seeking the assistance of customers that that is also allocated into there as well.
So see, when you break this down, this is actually really easy.
And if you think about this as things that you just truly want to achieve, of course, there's going to be things that map to your company's goals - but not always.
Some goals really originates and revolves around you, and that's what makes this Career Success Plan strategy work; it's a living document that focuses on who you want to be and how you will get there. It's something you should be going to on a regular basis.
I personally look at my plan and my vision on a weekly basis when I do planning. You might not choose to look on a weekly basis. But at least once a month, this should be a document that you're looking at reviewing and revising.
Because one thing that is always going to be true about your plan is that your plan is going to shift and change.
Best case scenario, it's shifting and changing the you're smashing that those goals ahead of schedule.
I know that this framework is giving you so much information to get you up and started. But as you actually create your strategies and your plan, there's going to be a few things that you really want to dig into. Because this, at the end of the day, isn't just a goal list.
It's not just a task list.
It's actually a strategy document to get you where you want to go.
The trouble is, is you might not be aware of all the strategies and resources available to you to actually help you achieve those things.
I do have strategies that are available to you in my free masterclass. Now, I didn't include it in here because vomiting strategy at people who weren't interested in really just want to the process seems like it might be overkill. But if you do need strategy to help augment and enhance their plan and help increase your chances of actually getting there, you can feel free to check it out. You can register here, I hope to see you there!