Let’s assume you’re in early or mid career. You want to be an entrepreneur but you’re currently a teacher? Or you’re an accountant and want to become a Vice President of Finance? Or maybe you have a college degree and you’re reentering the marketplace after 15 years raising a family? All of these career changes are possible but they need four things:
- A clear goal in a reasonable time frame
- The resources to support your efforts
- A solid strategy of progressive movement
- The determination to succeed
GOALS AND TIME – Your ultimate goal is where you want to be at the end of your career. Do you have enough time to reach your ultimate goal? The answer is determined by the number of steps it will take from where you are to where you want to go. Goals may need to change with reality. If you have 10 steps and 10 years you probably won’t make it. Define your ultimate goal. Identify how many job moves and time you have to reach your goal. At each step either adjust your steps, the time frame or your goal. When you’re half way there you’ll know whether your goal is reachable or not.
RESOURCES – Your primary resources are family, supporters, finances and a coach. Your family must be actively supportive. The best resources are the people who know you and can attest to your high performance. People who know you can refer you to others and organizations looking for talent. They can act as a strong and relevant reference. Networking is the primary tool that finds most job opportunities. Who do you know and whom do they know? Make sure you have the financial resources for a move. Career coaches are very inexpensive when used effectively. Hire one who will stay with you until you are placed.
STRATEGIES THAT WORK – If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Define where you currently are along the path and the next step. Put each step on paper with a job title and time line. Will you need an advanced degree or certification? Find someone who has made the transition before you. Determine how they did it and apply the learning to your situation. If possible, find a mentor who can act as a guide. If not, find a coach to develop the Career Map with you and coach you through each step.
PERSISTENCY – Developing and carrying out a Career Map takes discipline, time and persistence. It’s not a quick fix nor is it static. You’ll need to continually knock on new doors, expand your network and remain flexible to adapt to new opportunities. Reality will intervene and try to knock you off course. Your strategies and determination will ascertain progress.
A Career Map is a work-in-process. Be prepared and think through your strategy. Don’t waste time and energy with an unrealistic or losing career move. Ready… fire… aim is not a strategy. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Talkback: What was the most enlightening question you ever asked a job interviewer? If you’re a hiring manager, what are the best (or worst) question candidates ask you?