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Effective “career management” doesn’t mean launching and following through on a career that charts a straight course, never veering, never sliding downhill, and magically avoiding all pitfalls and setbacks. A well-managed career is far from error-free. And if you can set a goal at the age of 18 and never veer from that one perfect goal until you reach the day of your retirement, good for you…but you’re certainly in the vast minority.

Instead of trying to keep your course arrow straight by avoiding risks and mistakes, accept that risks, mistakes, and change are an inevitable part of the growth process. Define a successful career as one that brings you the forms of satisfaction you need most during each shifting chapter of your working life. The four moves below will play a central role in this ongoing process.

Mapping

Create a road map for your long term career by establishing clear goals that are important to your sense of self and the values that define who you are and who you’d like to be. Once you have one or two overarching goals in mind, break those goals down into a series of clear milestones you’ll need to reach to bring each goal to fruition. Then break each of these milestones down into a series of actions and place these actions on a realistic timeline.

Goal Tracking

As you review your map and get ready to set off, recognize that you may lose sight of your long term goals as you progress toward them. Expect to get mired down in daily details and allow your larger goals to slip from view. Periodically schedule time and activities that will help you find your north star through the clouds, the setbacks, and the countless small hassles you’ll face along the path.

Observation

How can you tell if you skill sets are improving at an acceptable pace? How can you tell if you’re actually getting better at what you do and closer to where you need to be? Sometimes these measurements can feel subjective and illusory, but you can counter this by finding a non-biased outside source or an objective, data-based way to monitor your progress.

Course Correction

“Mission-creep” describes a tendency for overarching goals to become misdirected or altered by unplanned events. If you’re finding yourself drawn to a new goal that only partially resembles the original, you have two choices: correct your course and heading back to the original, or abandon the original and build a new map toward the altered goal. Either option is viable, as long as you keep a hand on the wheel and stay in control of the process.

For guidance with any of the steps above, enlist the help of those who have traveled this way before you. An experienced staffing firm like Tech Needs can help put your plan together and find the resources you need to reach your destination.

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