Top 10 tips for creating a career strategy/plan

Many of us are so caught up with our day to day work that we rarely get a chance to stop and think “where is my career going?” If you do not have a career strategy or plan, how do you know whether or not your career is heading in the right direction?

Go on, spoil yourself – give a bit of time for yourself by taking the straight forward steps suggested below.

  1. Start with the end point first
    • This process is all about where you want to be at a point in time. This could be 3, 5, or even 10 years down the line.
    • If you start at the present there can be lots of reasons to delay the process in the months ahead.
    • By having a clear end point you can mark out your step changes and are more likely to achieve your goals.
  2. Mark out when the step changes should occur
    • Using the same approach, there will be step changes which by example could mark the anticipated end of a role, or a period of working abroad.
    • You may also in your strategy have given yourself a fixed time in a position with the expectation of moving by a fixed date.
    • Step changes may also coincide with gaining a qualification or reaching the end of a training period.
  3. List additional skills/competencies required
    • Each step change could mark a point where you have developed one or a number of new competencies.
    • Certainly as you develop you should be enhancing existing or creating new competencies.
    • Create a list of what you believe them to be.
    • Discuss the list with senior colleagues and/or the Learning & Development department.
    • Apart from letting these people see that you are serious about your Career Development you should also get advice and confirmation that you are going down the right track.
  4. How will the job’s scope need to change
    • Quite often the scope of a job changes in line with changes in the organisation itself. This can mean additional skills and competencies will be required.
    • If you can see what is happening to your ideal future role then you can begin to plan the additional skills and competencies you will have to learn/train for to meet changing scope.
  5. What interventions will you need from others?
    • As mentioned above it is a positive move for others to see that you are taking charge of your career.
    • Initially identify who you consider can be a sounding board or mentor for you.
    • If the atmosphere in your organisation is not supportive here, consider getting advice from someone who you are close to who may well have left the organisation, so understands the culture.
    • Provided that you are not too demanding – normally a quarterly chat and catch up is enough – this should be acceptable to most people.
    • It is important to get unbiased feedback from selected others in this process which usually plays a valuable part in making sure you are following the right direction.
  6. Consider what might go wrong
    • The best laid plans can go wrong often for reasons outside your control. In fact it is almost better to accept upfront that something will go wrong on potentially several occasions.
    • Creating Strategy is a bit like planning a long journey. It’s bad luck if you didn’t hear the traffic news announcing that the road 20 miles ahead is blocked. Most of us on a road journey do listen to the traffic news so that we can divert our route should this happen.
    • This of course means we might be a bit late in arriving at our destination but we will get there.
    • Use this analogy to try to foresee where “road blocks” might arise on your career journey. Plan to keep an eye and ear open to any changes in the organisation that might lead to you creating a diversion plan.
  7. Does your “career” road map make sense?
    • Following on from above how is your strategy plan looking? Does it have some resilience built in to cope with diversions?
    • Is your strategy realistic, are the time changes sensible?
  8. Use our career strategy tools
    • We have a number of tools to help you create your strategy – see these in the book.
    • This chapter is all about creating the “big picture” not the detail or minutia.
  9. Check out the strategy with others
    • Throughout this section we have mentioned the involvement of others. Clearly you have to make your own mind up about the strategy you are creating.
    • If others – inside or outside your organisation – have expressed an interest in what you are doing, continue to involve them at least quarterly.
    • You may have had an influence on their desire to create their own strategy. Offer to be a sounding board for them. Apart from feeling good about helping someone else, they have a different slant on activities which you might want to utilise yourself – with their agreement of course!
  10. Finalise the strategy
    • Now we have made this point to get you thinking. Do you think your strategy should be cast in stone or should it be cast in putty?
    • The answer lies somewhere in between. You are creating a strategy about how to get from A to B in x years.
    • The principle stands, but there might be a few diversions down the road which will require flexibility on your part. If you are too inflexible the strategy might snap. If it is too flexible you might get lost down some side road.
    • The answer is to keep the strategy to broad principles and let the detail be part of the “flexible” plan.

This article is an extract from Ian’s book “100 Top Tips for Developing your Career” .