Everyone has a dream job. Some people want to become CEOs; others dream of being named creative director of a non-profit organization. Some want nothing more than to run their own company. For many people, a dream job is just that: a dream. But others manage to turn even their most far-fetched goals into reality—and they do it through careful career advancement planning.
Everyone should have a career advancement strategy in place. If you don’t, it’s definitely worth your time to sit down and create one. Career advancement strategies can help you stay one step ahead of the game, and help you “chunk it down” and establish short-term goals.
A career advancement strategy is different from a job search strategy in two ways. First, it addresses your loftiest career goals, and helps you find ways to achieve them, regardless of your current job situation. Second, it lets you plan your actions in advance, and helps you build a solid foundation so you won’t backslide by trying to reach too far too fast.
When you’re building your career advancement strategy, start from where you are right now. For example, I’m currently working with a client whose ideal job involves being on stage. (This client has given me permission to use his story.) This client—we’ll call him Mr. X—is leaning toward politics as a vehicle to make this happen; more than money or prestige, he wants to use the stage as a way to make his opinions heard, and to solve problems in the world. So what should his career advancement strategy include? Well, he’s “been in hiding” for a while, as he puts it, so he needs to get out there and start working some of his old contacts, because politics is all about making the right connections. We’re also working on his image, which is very important to anyone who wants to be in the public eye.
Other things from which someone in Mr. X’s position might benefit include formal training in public speaking and a course on body language. Leadership courses, especially those targeted toward corporate managers and CEOs, might offer an opportunity to make new contacts. He also needs to chart his ideal “rise through the ranks,” and set his sights on jobs that will act as stepping stones to his dream job, which is that of a legislator or other public servant.
Here’s what you can do to get started on your own career advancement strategy:
Action Step 1: Take an inventory of things you need to do to prepare yourself for your future role of ____ (you fill in the blank). Do you need further education, a broader networking base, the backing of a daring venture capitalist? If your ideal position exists within your current company, which positions do you need to move through in order to attain your goal, and with whom will you have to work to attain them?
Action Step 2: Look for resources to support you. And if your company offers tuition reimbursement, use it! Education is one of the top things employers look for—and the same goes for your current employer. You won’t land that next “stepping-stone” position if you don’t have the right skills.
Action Step 3: Conduct informational interviews. Make an effort to meet people who are living your dream. CEOs, managers, and entrepreneurs are all great people to talk to when you’re looking for some perspective. Ask them how they got to their current position, and what challenges they faced along the way. Their answers provide valuable career insight.