We plan ahead for a lot of things in our lives. We schedule appointments and make grocery lists. We buy a map before a road trip, and we book hotel rooms before flying cross-country. But when it comes to our careers, many of us don’t plan beyond TGIF.
Your business future shouldn’t be a vague blur on the horizon, easily mistaken for a smudge on your windshield. It should be a concrete destination, firmly fixed in your mind—because when that happens, you can dig out the map and plan the most direct route to reach it.
Now don’t get me wrong: you can’t plan for everything. Sometimes you hit a big pothole and your tire goes flat. Sometimes, bridges don’t go all the way across the river, and you have to reroute. Perhaps our current financial crisis came as a complete surprise—like an avalanche in the Rockies or a mudslide in California—and now you feel stranded. But no matter how bad things may seem, if you have a goal you have momentum. You can always draw a new map.
Here are some ways in which you can plan ahead to make sure you keep cruising along toward your career goal.
- Have a backup plan. Unfortunately, every career can feel a little shaky in this economy. If you feel your job is in jeopardy, take some steps to ensure you keep it (like those I outlined in last week’s article). But also, strengthen your networking connections and brush up on your skills, so you’ll have some solid resources if the worst happens. Think of your networking group like AAA; when you get stuck, call them and someone will be there to help you out.
- Start saving. When people lose their jobs—or leave them—their new jobs are often not the ones they’d imagined themselves landing. Sometimes, they turn out to be less rewarding than the old job. The biggest reason that this happens is money. When unemployment runs out, most people are forced to take whatever’s offered to them, just to pay the bills. This can be the career equivalent of taking a detour to Montana when you want to get to Los Angeles: it’s not that there’s nothing of value in the former, but it’s not at all where you wanted to be. To make sure you have enough gas to get you to Hollywood, start putting some money aside. If you can hold out a little longer, you stand a better chance of finding a job that’s right on your route to personal success.
- Think two steps ahead. If you’re determined to rise to the top of your company or your field, you need to think two steps ahead. Don’t try to micromanage your future—that will only cause you a lot of stress—but know what your stepping stones should be. This doesn’t just include positions or titles, but also education, networking, and participation in actual projects. Most importantly, when you see an opportunity, go for it. Don’t sit at a green light wondering which way to turn.
If you’re not sure of the best way to map your way to career success, give me a call. Sometimes all you need is someone to point you in the direction of the freeway!