Original Spanish version published in the El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on February 4, 2017
How do you see yourself in the next 5, 15, 20, or 30 years of your career? Do you have a career plan? Are you clear about where you are going? Though some people do have a plan, I am still concerned about the large number of people who look at me in bewilderment, without understanding what I am talking about, when I ask those questions. I explain that it is really about something very simple. It is having a road map, a general guide for our careers and lives in order to know where we are headed.
The idea is to have a long-term projection so that we know what we want to become, who we want to be, and what we want to do. From my experience in working with thousands of successful people who take the time to seriously think about their future and career, I have learned that the key is to have a long-term vision of what we want to become. It makes all the difference between people who fulfill their greatest dreams and those who accomplish little, very little, or nothing in life.
So, for a road map, the first thing we have to do is dare to invent a future –see it before us, aspire to succeed with healthy ambition, and dream good and big things for ourselves. Next comes making a plan, with clear deadlines and benchmarks to know if we are on the right track.
A good idea is to take 30 minutes, when we are feeling relaxed, to think about the following: What do I want to do? How far do I really want to go? What do I want to do with my company, my career, or the business I want to start up? What would I like to achieve? What things do I have to do or continue doing? What do I have to stop doing? In addition, of course, what do I want to do with my personal life, with my health, and with my family life?
It would be a good idea to repeat this exercise at least twice a year to see if we are making any progress. An easy and practical way of starting is by creating an Excel chart where we can enter our long-, medium- and short-term goals, and then group them by months and years and decades. That way we can measure our progress –or setbacks–with our own and very personal success indicators, just as companies continuously do with their business plans. With this simple approach, we can see how we are progressing, where we got off track, what new item we need to add, what to change, and so on. This will give us a clear idea of our challenges for each month, year, and five-year term. Does this take time? Yes, but without a road map, we cannot clearly see if we are on our way to reaching our goals or not.
Of course, it is important to be very flexible, since things often do not turn out as we expect –actually, life always surprises us in many ways–, but this plan provides a general guide to help keep us on a rising course of growth and development.
I have also learned that having this kind of plan gives us a competitive edge in our professional career, and undeniably improves our opportunities for success (always defined in very personal terms, of course). A road map also allows us to take control of our life in general, never leaving it adrift, let alone in the hands of others…