Why You Need A Strategic Career Plan
As a Career Strategy Coach, many people come to me when their career is in transition or needs to be fast (i.e, their company is tanking or they know they’re on their way out the door). This is fine. It’s an obvious time when you need to turn your attention to your career, get a job, and take the next step, and I love working with clients in career transitions. But what I find is that there is often an air of desperation. They (understandably) make decisions rooted in fear or scarcity instead of making decisions that support their long term growth and direction.
It’s hard to persuade someone to look at their career path when things are going swimmingly. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! But the truth is, developing a strategic career plan is not about fixing anything. It’s about setting yourself on a clear path and creating actionable steps to get there so you don’t end up stagnant or, worse – in a job you never wanted – because you had no plan.
There are so many benefits to having a plan for your career. But people like lists, and research shows they like short ones, so below are just five. Stick with me and stay tuned for more to come…
It gives you a sense of control
The brain needs to feel that it is in charge in order to be happy. Feeling like you have no control in your career makes you unhappy and dissatisfied. Having a strategic plan for your career makes you feel like you are in charge, increasing your sense of purpose, direction and overall satisfaction.
Think of a project you were on where you felt like you had no say in where the project was going or how you were going to get there. How much enjoyment did you get out of that project? My guess is, not much. When you feel like your actions don’t matter to your career prospects, it’s hard to enjoy yourself and stay engaged. Having a plan for your career gives you a clear direction and a clear path to get there. More control, more satisfaction. Just like that.
It helps when it comes to performance reviews
Having a strategic plan for your career isn’t just about looking down the line. It’s also about understanding where you are now and how you’ve progressed. When you have a plan – even if you don’t share it with anyone – you are more aware of how much you’ve grown and are in a better place to share that come review time.
A good strategic career plan has milestones along the way that will help you achieve your goals. As you achieve each milestone in your plan, you’ll be able to identify what you accomplished to your manager or HR representative performing your review. Most professionals know that it’s their job to tout their good performance, but if you’re not tracking it, how will you be able to share it? As an added bonus, your milestones will all point to the direction you want to go, so even if you don’t share your strategic plan with your manager (but you should!), sharing your milestones in your review will start to paint a picture for your desired outcome that your manager won’t be able to ignore.
You’re better prepared for the unexpected
We all have hard times in our careers. Whether they are personal to you or centered around your company, industry or the economy, one thing I can guarantee is that you will be hit with the unexpected hiccup on your career path. When that happens, having a plan helps you recover faster and with more purpose.
When something knocks you down in your career, knowing where you are going will get you back up quicker than if you were just plodding along aimlessly and will help you stay focused on your next move. It’s easy to make decisions out of fear when you just have to make a decision, but a long term career plan will keep you focused on your end game and ensure that when you are forced to shift your job, it will be in a purposeful way and aligned with your long term goals.
It keeps you growing
It’s easy to get stagnant or comfortable in your career. And sometimes, it’s highly necessary (you want to direct more attention to your kids at home, you just had a killer year and need a break from the momentum to re-collect yourself). But if it’s not an intentional shift with a defined timeline, you run the risk of staying in the same role too long, not growing yourself or your career, and eventually making yourself dispensable.
A strategic career plan forces you to keep moving because you have a goal to achieve! And, as noted above, a good plan has milestones that you will be striving to hit along the way. Those milestones will involve acquiring new skills, working on more complex projects, or stretching your personal skills in specific ways. Your strong sense of purpose and direction will keep you growing and developing your skills so they don’t diminish. After all, everything in life is either growing or dying – which do you choose for your career?
It keeps you engaged
Let’s face it – work is work. It’s not always fun. It’s not always interesting. But if you have a plan for where your career is headed, you will be more engaged at work regardless of the work thrown at you, making you more valuable to your company and your clients. Why? For all of the reasons listed above. You’ll feel in control of your career and challenged enough (even if it only comes from yourself) to stay actively involved in this thing you spend a majority of your waking hours doing. Engagement is the key to success in your profession and makes you more valuable to your team and company, helping you limit – to the best of your abilities – those hiccups that might come along the way.
Don’t have a strategic career plan? See all the benefits you’re missing out on? Schedule a free session with me to discuss how I can help you control your career so you can control your life!
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