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A Career Planning Primer

Estate planning.  Retirement planning.  Trip planning.  Family planning.  Business planning.  Anything worth doing is worth planning.  Rarely is anything accomplished overnight.  In fact, I don't think there's such a thing as overnight success.  Behind the hit song, hit movie, or ascension to CEO (or fill-in-the-blank top of your chosen field), came a lot of hard work, sacrifice and dedication.  Success in your profession doesn't happen on its own either.  A little bit of deliberation can help get you where you want to go in a more organized fashion and help keep your eye on the prize when you're feeling disoriented from the dizzying pace of day-to-day life. 

With career planning, it's not about who you are today but all about who you want to become.  Below are two lists of things you can do, within your company and externally within your industry, to accelerate your career.  

Internal (withIn your Company): the goal here is to build a strong network of relationships within your company across departments and across tiers in the hierarchy.  Networking within your organization is easier than random conferences because you already have a frame of reference and have at least one thing in common: you work at the same place! 

  • Lunch with a co-worker
  • Periodic meetings with leaders you admire
  • Taking on a new project impacting other departments
  • Attend internal events
  • Volunteer for (or start) an employee resource group

External (withIn your Industry): anything you do outside your organization will help build your credibility, raise your profile and bring you closer to establishing yourself as an expert in your field.

  • Publishing articles or blogging
  • Speaking engagements
  • Mentoring
  • Board membership
  • Volunteering / Serving on a Committee
  • Teaching
  • Informational interviews
  • Extra certification or continuing education courses
  • Career coach

A lot of these might sound painfully obvious, but if you don't create a written plan and be mindful of hitting your goals, it's easy to get sucked in by the fire drills of today and lose sight of your personal career development for tomorrow.  

Pick a half day of quiet time to do the deep thinking and planning you need to achieve your professional dreams.  Try a few of the above action items over the course of the next few months and make note of which larger commitments you want to tackle in the future.  Feel free to pick and choose and mix and match the ones that most resonate with you (or make up your own).  These are the building blocks to your success, and of course there are many more possibilities.  You are also more likely to hold yourself accountable if you commit to your plan in writing.  That said, don't be rigid and don't be hard on yourself if you didn't tackle everything you wanted to do or feel like your goals have changed.

Career planning is not a one-time thing.  Block off time on your calendar to revisit your goals every so often and examine what you've done and what you still want to do.  The only thing standing in your way is you.

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