Fall Career Planning Guide

Leadership Coach Katie Kelley says that despite today's challenging economy you can still strategize your next career move.

1)      Ask for feedback.  Beside your paycheck, the most important benefit you can gain from your current job is feedback on your performance and insights on your strengths and weaknesses.  And incidentally, before you consider your next job, it would be wise to ensure that you are exceeding expectations currently, especially if you are expecting a reference.
 
 If your workplace does not regularly provide evaluations and feedback review meetings, consider asking your boss if they can begin this practice and even better take the initiative to spearhead this practice for them.  For example, take a stab at writing out a form that outlines your job responsibilities and tasks.
 
Once you are able to have this meeting with your boss, make sure you come prepared to the meeting with questions that you want to raise with him or her regarding how you can begin to perhaps increase your responsibilities or shift into some different roles in an effort to expand your skill set. In other words, try to optimize all the ‘learning and development’ opportunities that are available within your current job so that you expand your skill set and impress your boss as the same time.
 
 
2) Get some perspective. It is a common feeling to not know what it is that you want to accomplish or achieve in your career.  The best way to remedy this feeling of uncertainty is to gain as much perspective as possible by getting involved with various online and in-person communities that are centered around either your current industry and/or an industry of interest.  Attend lectures, sign up for webinars, read books and blogs in an effort to learn as much as you can about subject matter and related jobs that are of interest to you personally and professionally.  Be sure to pay attention to trends and opportunities within your area of interest as so many professions and industries are undergoing massive shifts in their hiring practices and focus in our new economy.

3) Do a gut check.  A simple question that you can ask yourself was quipped by my colleague Marsha Shenk and that is, “What would have you delighted a year from now?”  If you are still feeling stumped by this question, an easy exercise is to sent a poll to your friends and family whom you believe know you best and ask them what they think your ‘remarkable differences’ are, in other words what you are uniquely talented in doing and being.  You can even ask them what occupations or roles they think you would be best suited for. 
Once you have some answers to these first three tips, fill out a diagram with three overlapping circles.  In the first circle, fill in your skills that you uncovered while getting feedback from your current job. In the second circle, fill in some of the opportunities that you learned about in the second exercise.  Then, fill in the third circle with some of the items that you most enjoy doing that you discovered in the third exercise.  The answer to your ultimate career objective should be alluded to in the areas where all three circles overlap. In other words, what is the recurring theme or subject matter that comes up when you go through all three of these steps? 

4) Identify a mentor. A mentor is typically a professional who has already accomplished the same type of professional success you aspire to yourself.  Ideally, this person agrees to act as a mentor for you and provides you with insights and guidance on your own career strategy and journey.  However, sometimes people can act as mentors for us without even knowing that they are acting in this role.  The point is that you have someone who is providing an example or a blueprint if you will that you can design your own journey around.  A mentor is different from a coach or a consultant in that they sometimes can be called upon to make an introduction for you or vouch for you as you apply for a particular position or opportunity.  Two Portland organizations that have a mentor program are Mercy Corps and The Link.  Also, if this is something that you are interested in at your workplace, don’t hesitate to inform your boss or your Human Resource Department  that you are interested in being assigned a mentor.

5) Develop Your Career Timeline with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Now it is time to take all this information that you have gathered and plug it into some kind of a timeline, spreadsheet or calendar so that you can shift in to the action part of this exercise.  I always advise clients to sketch out an overall progression of how they are going to shift from their current role or occupation to where they ultimately want to be.  Once they have an overall path sketched out of what the need to do to make this leap, I then ask them to break each step into S.M.A.R.T. goals.  This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Reasonable and Timely.  So for example, rather than just writing down a general goal of “Improve my capacity to network”, I would suggest that the person sets this one goal to be a series of S.M.A.R.T.  sub-goals, such as:

1) Create my 30, 60 and 90 second elevator pitch by September 15th
2) Practice my 3 elevator pitches with 10 new people by September 25th.
3) Design and order business cards by October 1st.

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