Take the Lead and Become the CEO of Your Career Path

Kathy Leck

Friday, May 23, 2014

Are You the CEO of Your Career Path? How to Take the Strategic Lead

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is the assumption that our career will naturally evolve or progress with experience.  As with other goals, nothing transitions in your career without some kind of strategic direction, planning and execution.

Have you created an actionable strategy when it comes to your professional career?  If you haven’t taken the time to create solid plan for your career trajectory, there is no time like the present to sit down and evaluate where you are and where you would like to be.  We’ll outline some of the methods and measurable tools you can use to take the strategic lead in your own career.

Step One: Review Previous Roles, Accomplishments and Opportunities

Taking a look backward is helpful when planning the way forward for your career.  Job related experience is progressive, meaning that most people have learned and earned their way up the ladder with new roles and opportunities for advancement.  What have you contributed to the organization in a very tangible way?  If you have progressed, why bother looking at your past work experience?

Previous roles and accomplishments can give you an excellent indication of what really makes you happy in terms of leadership situations.  What kind of environment do you prefer?  Private or non-profit?  Do you excel in large teams and corporate environments, or small subgroups and more hands-on or personal leadership roles? Where and when do you feel your best at work?  Evaluate previous professional opportunities and accomplishments to make a list of what you enjoyed or disliked to hone a definition of your idea future role, with aspects that bring you a high level of engagement and satisfaction.

Step Two: Assess Personal Skills Inventory

Your skills are changing and improving every year you are employed.  As Managers progress (and unless they are prompted) there can be a risk of underrating certain skills and performance or a lack of acknowledgement for new skills that have been established.   What are you good at?  What has improved with experience?  What skills are weakest and need improvement, particularly for advancing your role? /what kind of activities or experiences will you need to get that improvement?  Make a list of your knowledge based and interpersonal skillsets, and create an honest assessment of them and what you need to experience to get better.  How competitive are your talents within your niche sector?

Step Three: Visualize Your Progression

What would your new role look like?  What would you contribute if you had it? Would it be intra-organizational or involve moving to a new industry or employer?  Would it require retraining, and if so, how long would the retraining take before you would be eligible to qualify for an advancement or new role?  Articulate how it evolve and what it would involve in detail.

Step Four: Map Your Action Plan

Planning your career progression without actually mapping an action plan is like boat without a rudder.  Heading into your goal full steam ahead without a clear plan and the strategic steps necessary to execute them really is tantamount to treading water, with maximum effort and minimal result.    Consider using a template to draft your action plan.  Connect with Lake Forest Graduate School of Management Career Services for resources.

Step Five: Set Measurable Timelines

When would you like to transition to your new opportunity?  Work backwards from a proposed date or year, and break down your action plan into measurable units and measurable experiences you need to have.  You can have a thirty, sixty or ninety day plan or a one-to-two year goal or more.   Setting longer term goals is sometimes required when retraining is needed (such as completion of your MBA), but schedule check-in dates and benchmarks to monitor your progress and propel you forward to your ultimate goal of a new career or an advanced role.

Remember that professionals can anticipate several career changes, depending on the volatility of the economy as well as the evolution of roles which are ever more impacted by technology.  Plan for transition at all stages of your professional career.

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