Why should you develop a long-term strategy toward your ultimate career goal? Because short-term decisions can take you off course, from which you may never recover.
Think about it. If you leave your current job and make the wrong decision, it’ll take you a minimum of a year to figure out that you need a change again. When that change takes place and you get credibility in your new job, a full 3 years may have passed. Heaven forbid you make a second bad decision. You may never recover.
So, what are the strategy steps to advance your career? Target your ultimate career goal, develop benchmarks in 2 to 5 year increments, gain breadth and depth in your chosen field, and plan the expansion of your skill sets while finding and becoming a mentor. The six steps in more detail are:
- Define Your Ultimate Goal: What is it that you want to achieve long term? The head of your own company? Vice-President of Marketing for a fortune 500 company? Retire by the time you’re 50 years old? Each of these goals means a different strategy to get there. Develop strategy steps in 2 to 5 year increments, by looking at least 2 to 3 jobs forward.
- Continually Develop New Skills: This step has two parts: Upgrade new skill sets in your primary function and learn new skill sets that complement your next function. Both of these can be done by certifications, advanced degree or new applications in technology. Top executives expect everyone to grow their skills.
- Expand Your Horizon and Experiences: Join Rotary and an industry association, write articles for a trade journal, teach at a local college are all ways to keep up to date. Volunteer in a non-profit organization or join a community board of directors to learn senior level skills. You’ll be interfacing with your peers (and also with potential bosses).
- Learn To Communicate Effectively: Continually critique and upgrade your communications skills: Writing, speaking, observing, listening, and non-verbal language. Practice on your own and in front of those you trust to provide helpful suggestions. Ask for tips on how to improve.
- Look For Expanded Duties and Be Flexible To Change: Change is continual, both in opportunities and in ways to improve performance. Many revolve around improved effectiveness and efficiency. Technology can play a major role. Be a leader in suggesting change and managing the change process. You’ll be noticed.
- Find and Be A Mentor: Find a mentor to help “pull” you up the career ladder, while you mentor others who will “push” you up the success Continually look for a mentor who will take you under their tutelage, while you become a mentor to others. This is one of the key contributions that top management is looking for within their organization: Leaders who develop talent.
Careers are planned, designed and developed over time. It doesn’t happen by accident.
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