Thinking Strategically About Your Career Development

Lay the Groundwork for Job You Want — Five Years From Now and Beyond

Take control of planning your career. These four steps will help you get from where you are to where you want to be. 

In a world where the average employee sends and receives 122 emails per day and attends an average of 62 meetings per month, your boss simply doesn’t have the time to properly think through how best to deploy your talents moving forward.

Instead, you must take control of your career planning to ensure you’re putting yourself in position for long-term growth.

Here are four ways to become more strategic about the process.

Force yourself to set aside time: When things get busy, time for strategic thinking is almost always the first thing to go. Force yourself to make time for strategic reflection. Identify several trusted colleagues and start a mastermind group to meet regularly, discuss big-picture goals and hold each other accountable for meeting them.

Get clear on your next steps: Clarifying your professional goals is only the first step. The place where many professionals fall down is identifying the pathway to get from here to there. One technique you can use is “pre-writing your résumé.” Put yourself five years into the future and write your résumé as you envision it, including your new title and exact job responsibilities. Fill in the intervening five years: what specific skills you’ll need to develop in the interim, what degrees or accreditations you may need to earn, and what promotional path you’ll need to pursue in order to get there.

 Invest in deep work: It can be tempting to invest your time the same way everyone else does — putting in face time at the office or racing to respond to emails the fastest. At lower levels, that might mark employees as “go-getters.” But as you ascend in the organization, that becomes less important. Instead, what marks you as successful over time is creating in-depth, valuable projects. That involves a shift from staccato, reactive work into more self-directed, long-term projects. There’s no immediate payoff — but the long-term benefits and recognition are substantial.

Build your external reputation: External hires into a company get paid 18-20% more than internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs. That’s patently unjust, but it points to an important truth: Professionals are often taken for granted inside their own organizations. That doesn’t mean you should jump ship every few years. But it does point to the fact that even if you’d like to stay at the same company, it’s important to cultivate a strong external reputation to remind your boss and colleagues that your abilities are sought after and appreciated by others.

Taking time to think about your career development is obviously important, but it’s rarely urgent, so many professionals fail to take action year after year. By focusing on these four steps, you can begin to carve out time to be more deliberate, and lay the groundwork for the job you want — five years from now and beyond.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Career Planning

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