Think about it, if you are working for a business worth its
salt there is a good chance it has a vision and crucially a strategy BEFORE it
even starts on a yearly plan. So if you are serious about your career why
should you be any different? And when I say “serious about your career” I do
not mean work is the sole focus of your life or you are prepared to walk on
everyone’s head. Being “serious about your career” means that you intend to have
a career that is purposeful and brings you satisfaction.
The topic of career strategy is particularly important for
women as many of us tend to view career development as follow:
1/ I work hard and get results
2/ I get rewarded (ie wait to be told about my next
You’ll agree that is NOT a strategy.
Amazingly many senior and successful women realised they could aim for the big job only once someone told them – 65% according to the Korn Ferry study of women CEO.
And I was no better, for several years – working on STRATEGIES
for goodness’ sake – it never occurred to me to do the same for my career. Why?
No-one told me, the only narrative I perceived was “do well and then we’ll
talk”. Which is true to an extent but you should have a strategy to start with
“Yes, but Carine my company offers career planning/talent management/mentoring etc so I don’t really need to worry about it myself.”
You’re totally right your organisation offers all of this however it is in place to achieve ITS strategy, which is absolutely fine but may not be entirely aligned with YOUR aspirations. I’m passionate about the fact that it is your responsibility to ensure there is a good fit between what is proposed by your organisation and your career strategy.
In that case, how do I build a career strategy?
First and foremost you need to be made aware a career strategy is important for your development. I know, baby steps!
By the same token you need to let go of all the hang ups you
may consciously or not attach to the very concept of “career” such as “if I’m
serious about my career…
- I’m the pushy-type, sleazy, dare I say it…
- I won’t be a good parent
- I must put work first and sacrifice the rest of my
Family, culture, education, gender, do ask yourself if you
feel any ambiguity about driving your career, be candid as no one is listening!
Once you got any hang up out of the way, set a broad vision, the northern star of your professional life.
It’s ok if it’s not extremely precise as it will evolve with you. It really should reflect your personal values and integrate with the aspirations you have for your life, whether to retire at 40 or be master of the universe, there is no wrong answer.
You’re ready to “strategize”! Make sure you do it in a way that feels right for you.
A client of mine has got an engineering background so we tapped into that to devise “tools” that helped her thinking and implementation process, it felt right for her.
Give yourself a good SWOT.
You’ve got qualifications but look beyond that: what are you particularly good at? What lights you up? What is a challenge that you need to overcome to achieve your goal? Who/What could really support you? Get some feedback if you’re unsure on certain aspects.
You should end up with one or more “routes” or strategies
you could follow to achieve your career vision. Choose the one that is the most appropriate at this point in time, keep the others as they could be useful at a later stage.
Get planning! Overlay your strategy with your organisation talent strategy
to see what should be your next move in your current organisation and/or what training opportunities are available. I won’t go into the detail of goal planning and you can refer to this article.
If that motivates you, put some key milestones you want to achieve and be flexible with them. Please no bucket list, it so noughties!
2 final points:
If your strategy work shows that you’ll be ready to leap within 12-18 months, speak up NOW.
Start the conversation to ensure your organisation is aligned so you can get prepared. If the organisation’s view differs from yours it’s an opportunity to clarify what their expectations are and for you to act accordingly. And remember that “better” is the enemy of “good”, the quest for perfection will stop you from ever making the leap.
It is your career, your strategy, you’ve got to do it alone. That is such an “old world” paradigm.
The effortless, natural, self-made man, this myth has impacted our vision of what professional success looks like and should entail for decades and is not true! Ask any successful business if their strategy was devised by one person alone, of course not. You are perfectly entitled to use a sounding board, ask for advice or get challenged to clarify your plan. You just need to give yourself permission to be supported (that’s a whooole topic in itself) and it also shows a mature and wise approach to your professional development, I shall spare you the examples of the CEOs and their coaches, right?!
I hope that you now see the importance of having a career strategy and also the fact that it does not have to be a complicated affair. I invite you to take some time before you finalise your annual objectives to reflect and draft your career strategy as it will do wonder for your professional development and, more importantly your satisfactio