Can you really take charge of your career? We are in a whirlwind of change. Knowledge is doubling every 18 months. New Facebook content additions have increased from 684,000 to 2.5 million per minute in the last few years. Wikipedia adds 60,000 new articles per month. There are now over 40 million Wikipedia articles in 293 languages. In an attempt to keep up, people are doing over 40,000 google searches per second.
At the same time, companies have their own whirlwind and can’t really help you with your career. There was over $4 trillion spent on acquisitions in 2015 ( that’s more than was spent in 2007, by the way). Most of these acquisitions will involve restructuring. there were 25,000 business bankruptcy filings in the last year. Many more are dealing with takeover attempts or activist investors.
Companies are struggling to survive, educational institutions are mostly behind the curve, old careers are dying and transforming, and your boss can’t help. He or she is too busy with career issues themselves, trying to do their job, and keeping you in line. With all this, you could give up and say it’s impossible to plan a career, and simply try to be opportunistic.
My thinking, however, is that where there is change, there is opportunity. there is opportunity to think through and plan better than others, to better anticipate and take advantage of change. There is opportunity to be proactive and find better, more appropriate, developmental, satisfying and rewarding careers. You can figure out how to ride the horse in the direction it’s going.
- Start your ride by understanding your strengths. People tend to like to do what they’re good at, and are good at what they like to do. look at what you enjoy for clues. Be particularly aware of “flow” where you are fully engaged, mastering the work, using your skills and experience to the fullest, even losing track of time. 2. Crystalize your mission if you can. There are multiple resources and approaches. Try to boil it down to a relatively short actionable statement: Disney’s “I want to make people happy.” Google “personal mission” to start. (Google’s mission, by the way, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.) If you can’t develop a personal mission, find an organization whose mission you can assimilate.
- Once you have preliminary strengths and mission, start an organized information gathering process. Look at economic, technology, industry, and profession trends. Identify the best information sources and start a disciplined reading and note taking process. Possibly start a career journal. Certainly engage in career conversations. You talk sports and stocks, add career.
- Crystallize all of the above into a written plan, set goals and timetables for specific training and experience…I will be on a P&L team by X, and run a P&L by Y, and to do it I need to build and demonstrate these new skills A, B, C, D. Again, test he plan with mentors and professional career advisors if available.
- Then go on a directed march to build these skills. By now you will have a pretty good sense of where you are going and how you will get there. This gives you tremendous advantage over those without a plan. You will know what training to get, what positions to angle for, and when to dust off the resume to keep yourself on track. While you are on your directed march, consider the random walk. Be aware of the environment around you and be opportunistic when new situations present themselves; the seemingly random call from the search firm or the associate getting funding for a new business.
- While you are doing all this, you will be consciously be building your network. Gathering information, testing your plans, participating in training and education, joining industry and professional associations, keeping in touch with your school(s), engaging mentors(and mentoring) are all opportunities to take names, help them whenever possible, and keep in touch on your career progress. Engage professional career networks such as SENG, YPO, Vistage, and MDL Partners as appropriate.
- All of this takes time and discipline. Think for a moment about how much time you devote each month to looking at your investments and how much study of the financial markets you do. My rough rule of thumb should be to double that number for your career. Doing this will also help build time management and discipline skills.
- The last step is to revise as you go. You will change and be changed by your environment. Be aware of, and respond to these changes. The skill set needed for your ultimate destination (whatever that may be) will evolve. Your ultimate destination may even disappear. Technology will further impact your career. Be flexible, perceptive, intuitive and agile, all while doing a great job.
So here is your simple eight step plan. You now know what you must do. In the real world, things may not be quite so simple, but you can do it. Start with step one and take it one step at a time. If you would like professional assistance and an informed, independent perspective contact us at MDL Partners.