Often we have a plan for ourselves, but end up falling asleep at the wheel. You get comfortable, your job becomes easy, and then all of a sudden time has passed and you wonder just what exactly happened to your career.
Most of us end up in that type of rut at some point. The danger is that once you are in, it can be really hard to get out.
Here are two important things to think about next time you need to jumpstart your career planning:
1. The small picture is just as important as the big picture
For those who have very clear career paths (doctor, lawyer), the big picture has already been mapped out for you, framed, and laminated. For the rest of us, the long-term big picture is nice, but it can seem hazy, mystifying, or just incredibly out of reach. We operate on the back-of-the-napkin career map. That is ok, because spending some time thinking about the short-term can reap huge rewards. For example, when was the last time you thought about the three things that you want to do, teach, or learn over the next six months? What is exciting you or making you curious that is worth pursuing? Spend some time over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and think about things that interest you personally and professionally, and then commit to exploring a few of them.
Maybe it’s time to finally start blogging, spend some time with the social media team at your company, or maybe you want to position yourself for that great management training your firm offers to top performers. Think about it, set it out, and commit to spending some time actually doing it.
You don’t have to have big answers for your career right now, but you do want to feel like you are learning skills that will serve you in your current job, and far beyond.
2. Build your network
We often network organically, with little purpose. We meet someone at an event, run into people at happy hour, or just hang out with our co-workers or friends. That is great, but that you may or may not have the support you need as you grow in your career, which can hold you back. Adding a little planning to your networking can make a huge difference to where you end up in six months, and in five years.
Two things to think about:
- Who would you love to meet and have a coffee with in your life or in your fantasy world? Make a list of a few career heroes you have in mind and think about how to go after them. You can buy their book, read their blog, or attend a conference or an event. You can also simply send an email or pick up the phone and invite them out.
- Who haven’t you had lunch with recently? Taking one day a week or month to have lunch with someone from your existing network can be both inspirational and motivational. We tend to want to help people with whom we have connected with personally on some level. You never know who might want to make a few calls on your behalf after a great conversation over coffee. Spending time talking to someone about work outside of your company can be inspiring, exciting, problem-solving, or just a great venting session.
Not have a plan is a career planning. However, it’s unlikely to lead you anywhere. Having small plans, a few more people in your network, and a couple of things to focus on that interest you can make a huge difference to where you end up next.
You can follow Christie Mims on Twitter here.
Make sure to connect with one of our Levo Mentors and ask them your professional development questions! Have a tip you would like to add? Share with us in the comments.