Today we look at the magical mystical sorcery of how to map out and – more importantly - stay on some sort of practical career plan. Finding the middle ground between your career expectations and enjoying some sort of a life can be compared to nailing jelly to a wall and requires constant practical self evaluation.
While I have never been an advocate of overly complicated career planning, it is important to have some sort of idea where we’re heading and set some basic benchmarks.
While the process is important, in some ways this is also a cautionary tale suggesting we need to be careful what we wish for. Sayings such as ‘money doesn't buy happiness’, ‘you can’t take it with you’, ‘life’s too short’ etc are successful slogans for a reason and have more than a sprinkle of truth about them.
That said striking the right chord can be derailed by often competing priorities of professional advancement against the draw of balance and family. Many considerations come to the fore when assessing your own personal circumstances and to avoid the spinning hamster wheel in your mind taking over it is important to get your thoughts in order and make rational, emotion free decisions.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself regularly to get a picture of whether you are getting the most out of your professional life.
‘The Cunning Career Audit’
Am I enjoying going to work?
- If not, why not?
- Is it something I can change from within, lift my own work rate, take on more/less responsibilities, or
- Need I seek a new opportunity elsewhere?
What am I working toward – i.e. what is the next stage of my professional advancement?
- Am I challenged where I am?
- What am I offering to the business by way of value?
- Can I take on responsibility and in turn earn more money?
- What are the personal life consequences of taking on more responsibility? (more hours, more stress, family/personal time costs etc)
Is the company I am working for an ethical one? (If self employed/ Director– am I happy with my own ethics?)
- If not, am I happy to overlook unethical practices in the interests of not rocking the boat?
- What are the consequences of action/inaction?
Am I only in this role for financial reasons? If so:
- Can I minimise my financial expenditure to allow a more suitable path?
- What effect is this having on my health?
Where do I want to be in 1,2,5 years?
This is a great question and leads to the ultimate self reflection.
- Where were you 5 years ago?
- How far have you come in that time?
- Previous behaviour is a good guide to future behaviour, so if you’re not happy with your last 5 and you don’t have a plan… well you see where I’m heading...
Who do I turn to for career advice?
- Family members?
- Industry colleagues?
- A professional career planner?
Not asking yourself these questions on a regular basis can lead to frustration, lack of productivity and professional malaise. Taking a few simple steps may well uncover some surprising changes in direction, or at least re-affirm the path you are on.
The last Cunning Insight I can offer this time around is if you’re not doing what you want to do, find a way to change it. Nothing happens overnight but with a little planning and the right advice you can start mapping your way to a more balanced and professionally rewarding existence.
Start small with some real self assessment and who knows where your path goes.
Happy hunting and thanks for reading.