What Progress Have You Made In Your Career Plan?

Original Spanish version published in America Economia (Latin America) on July 18, 2015

It’s thinking about where we want to be next year, and over the next 15, 20, or 30 years of our life and professional career.

We are half way through the year and it’s time to ask ourselves: What progress have we we made in our career plan? Are we reaching the indicators we set out for ourselves for the first half of the year? How are we doing?

Often, when I ask people about their career plan, most of them look at me confused. I explain that it is something quite simple and very important we can do for our professional life. It’s a plan for where we want to be next year, and over the next 5, 15, 20 or 30 years of our life and professional career.

Making the plan starts by sitting down to ask ourselves the following questions and think about the answers: What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What would I like to achieve? What do I have to do to get there? What is the price I have to pay to get there? What do I have to do or continue to do? What do I have to stop doing? What do I have to start doing? What should I avoid? In sum, it’s about meditating on everything that puts us on course and in shape to achieve our life and career objectives.

I know we often do not establish career goals and hope it will be the companies themselves that somehow promote us or recognize our merits based on our accomplishments. Some companies do do this, but they are few. We ourselves must  look after and take control of our career, our employability, and our profile.

Not making a career plan is like starting to build a house without first drawing up a blueprint. It is like going to the lot with a shovel and wheelbarrow, and pick and hoe and saying, there is the living room, there is the dining room, without even putting down on paper what we want to do. Without planning what we want the house to be like; what size; how much it will cost; or what part we will build now and what stage we will leave for later. The same is true for our career. What I see is that most people do not develop a career (or personal) life plan. They simply live without planning too much, without expecting too much from life, without expecting too much from their careers. This prevents them from advancing, and instead they stagnate, often indefinitely.

Whenever I have the chance to meet with successful and brilliant people, I ask them, what are your strategies or secrets, or how did you get where you are? They invariably refer to their personal ambitions, what they expect from themselves and life, and how they see themselves in the future. This leads to a life and career plan that they put in writing and revise two or three times a year. They are always flexible plans that they adjust over time, because things often do not turn out as we hope or expect, but they do provide a guide or target that allows them to know where they want to go, what they have to do, and how they must prepare to do it.

If you do not yet have one, I seriously urge you to write up your life/career plan. It is not that hard to do and takes maybe a couple of hours to think through and write down, and then reflect on it two or three times a year. Having it is often the fundamental competitive edge for our professional career and certainly greatly improves our opportunities of being successful. The challenge, once it is ready, is to implement it, stick to it, and believe in it.

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