80% of the qualities required to be successful are attitude based therefore success is within your control. In the modern world a career will span a number of decades, consequently it is not unusual for individuals to have a number of different careers throughout their working lives. An individual may work in one profession, discipline or industry for twenty years and then decide to reinvent himself or herself and do something completely different for the second part of their working life and then may choose to do something completely different for the final chapter of their career. Consequently, career planning is an ongoing process discipline. The ability to "reinvent" yourself is becoming more and more important
Successful people tend to operate to a simple model known as the 4 Ps
• Purpose – Clear sense of what they want and why they want it underpinned by good self-awareness. "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom" - Aristotle
• Perseverance – Prepared to make sacrifices to achieve their career goals, will not give up
• Passion – Will get & display positive energy from their sense of purpose
• Plan – Have a rough plan as to how they will achieve their goal
Purpose: It is important to take the time out to assess what it is that will bring you long term fulfilment in life. What is going to make you feel proud of your life? Your career may or may not be an integral part of your life's work. Some people live to work and some people work to live. In some cases the person's career is a key component of who they are, it is a building block of their self-worth. It is important to understand where your career fits in the context of your life. Your purpose becomes an integral part of who you are.
To help with the process sometimes people imagine that they are writing their own obituary, what would you like your life's story to be? At the very least you should write your career story. What went well? What disappointed you? When were you at your best? When did you feel most fulfilled? What have you learnt along the way about yourself and your work preferences?
It is very important to spend time really understanding what it is you want and why you want it. When people give up on a goal it is usually because they weren't sufficiently committed to the goal as opposed to the obstacles being too difficult to overcome. Consequently, it is really important to set the right goals and truly understand your purpose.
Perseverance: Career focused people understand that to achieve a goal sacrifices may have to be made along the way, ultimately there probably will be trade-offs as you prioritise next steps.
You need to be willing to continue in the face of adversity and recognise that if something is worth having it will require hard work and ingenuity to achieve. Fundamentally you should expect to have setbacks and be predisposed to viewing setbacks as learning opportunities as opposed to fundamental blocks.
Passion: Your life's goals should become a source of positive energy, the journey in itself will be rewarding and give oneself a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.
You should be passionate about your life's purpose and express that excitement as appropriate. The display of passion will inspire others to help you achieve your life's purpose.
Plan: Life becomes random if there is no plan, certainly the probability of achieving a goal diminishes considerably if there is not a written plan. It is critical to have a plan and to share the plan so that others can get an understanding of how they can support you.
Many people make the mistake of keeping their "plan" in their heads. Keeping your thoughts in your head mean they are likely to remain as a dream as opposed to the foundation for a successful outcome. Ultimately the quality of your plan determines your likelihood of success. NB: Research indicates that the probability of successfully executing on the plan can be greatly enhanced if three specific actions are taken;
· Write down the plan
· Share your plan with a 3rd party.
· Set dates to review progress with the 3rd party.
Career Planning Process:
And now to the fifth, and final P – Process.
Take stock > Explore > Sense Check > Execute > Solicit Allies > EXPOSURE
"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing you are far more likely to be successful"
Take stock: Take time out to determine your life goals and how your career can help you in achieving fulfilment as you strive to attain life goals. At this point it is important to take a long-term perspective, think about your values as well as well as what will truly be best for you. Be careful of self-limiting beliefs – these are possibly unfounded assumptions that restrict your ambition. We sometimes kill an aspiration before we start by thinking too conservatively about what we are capable of in the long term. Essentially you want to answer the following questions;
o What is important to me in life? What are my priorities? If I had no restrictions what would I do? If I was not afraid what would I do?
o What assets (skills, experience & competencies) do I have? Why would anyone want to be led by me? What is my Brand?
o What do I need to learn?
Explore: Review what options are out there for you as you try to achieve your life goals. The questions below may be helpful.
o Am I looking for a vocation or a career, or both?
o What types of roles might I be best suited to?
o Do I want to work in the public or private sector?
o Do I want to work for a major multi-national or a small indigenous company?
o Am I looking to work in a fast paced high change environment or a more deliberate slow paced environment?
Sense check: Work with a trusted advisor to review your assumptions and answers to the questions in the sections above. The discipline of having to explain to a 3rd Party your logic and approach may prompt more ideas and will help you crystallise your thoughts. Hearing yourself explain your rationale is also useful exercise.
Execute & Review: Having done the research above now is the time to write out a plan. Identify actions to improve your skills, competencies and experience, ensure that you are taking actions to keep your strengths current and to meaningfully address development areas. Be very specific on actions you will take to advance your career. It is always good to have a Plan "B". A good career plan will include more than one route to attain the ultimate goal.
Solicit Allies: A key part of your career management is to ensure that you have a network that is aware of your career aspirations and are prepared to support you on your journey. Set up a cadence of meetings with key allies to ensure that your relationship remains strong and that they know what you would like from them. The old adage of "Out of site out of mind" is very true. You need to keep your allies well briefed on you achievements, what you want to do next and where you are looking to get to in the long term.
Exposure: Many people assume the quality of their work will get them noticed. Unfortunately it is not that simple. The more senior you are the more important (frankly necessary) it is to manage your profile and to promote yourself. The bottom line is the individual making a recruitment decision is taking a risk, the perceived risk is reduced if the hiring manager feels he or she knows or has heard of the candidate. People rarely recruit complete strangers to senior roles, usually there has been some sort of networking or facilitated introduction that creates a connection or you have a strong public profile. If you are not actively managing your exposure that critical connection to the hiring manager may be lost. Certainly the hiring manager will never come looking to headhunt someone they have never heard of!
See the sections on Managing Your Brand & Networking.
The key building blocks of your career are Results, Talent & Exposure.
Tips and tricks:
Your Plan: Look upon your plan as your "road map" to success, it is not a straight jacket – you can always deviate from the plan and revise the plan but at least you do so from a recognised starting point with a clear set of assumptions. Thus, you are making a considered change as opposed to reacting to life's ups and downs in a haphazard manner. A "plan" that is in your head is NOT a plan it is a dream!! Be sure to write down your plan and share it with a 3rd party.
Career Preference tests: There are free online Career Preference tests that you can take that may help you narrow down your search for the next type of role simply by eliminating those careers that you know do not appeal to you.
Being good at something: Don't fall into the "You would be good at that" trap – Some people are very good at doing roles that give them no satisfaction or sense of long term fulfilment. They fall into such roles because they are seduced by the praise and possibly remuneration they receive for being good at the role. We regularly coach individuals who are in high paying roles but are desperately unfulfilled and dying to get out and do a career that better aligns with their sense of purpose in life.
Grades: Don't let high academic grades distort your thinking! Some people feel that because they have high academic grades that they should go on and do courses in university or pursue a career that requires high grades. Some people end up in careers because they had the qualifications rather than truly wanting to pursue the career. Take the time to really understand what will make you feel fulfilled in the long run.
Select a career confidant! This individual should be someone who knows you well (preferably NOT your partner) and who will help you orientate your thoughts and hold you accountable for delivering the actions on your plan. Someone who will encourage but also challenge your thinking.
For more practical insights on thriving in the work environment see my book The Successful Career Toolkit or sign up for a virtual coaching session at Barr Performance Coaching website. Also, you can visit the PMI UK Webinar Library to re-review the output materials from my last webinar 'Career Development in Challenging Times
About the Author
Patrick has over 25 years international leadership experience in Operations, Supply Chain & Strategic Management, he has held senior roles in Ireland, the UK & the USA in the airline, FMCG & IT industry sectors. He is currently the owner & Managing Partner of Barr Performance Coaching. In companies such as Microsoft, Global OEM, Diageo and British Airways.
He is passionate about leadership development and performance management and has attained an MBA from University College Dublin and a post-graduate qualification in Business Mentoring and Leadership Coaching. He is a member of the Enterprise Ireland Mentor Panel, a faculty member of the Irish Management Institute, and a member of The European Mentoring & Coaching Council. He is an International Coach Federation certified coach and joined the board of the ISPCC in July 2016.