How to Think Strategically About Your Career Development
People spend a lot of time at work. In fact, if you think about it, you probably spend half of your waking life doing your job, and that’s if you’re “only” doing the bare minimum of a 40-hour work week.
Of course, there are plenty of people who spend closer to 60-70 hours doing work-related tasks every week. And yet, so much of the world is unhappy with the whole idea of it.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, approximately 85% of people worldwide hate their jobs.
In China and Japan, a whopping 94% of people expressed dissatisfaction with their work. And if you think China’s economic structure is solely responsible for that figure being so high, you’d probably be astonished to learn that in the United States, where people have all the freedom in the world to choose the job of their choice, 7 out of 10 people weren’t happy at work.
The thing is, people don’t have to be apathetic about their jobs, but all too often, fear and complacency get in the way of action toward finding something better. With a little strategy, you can take control over the direction of your career and find passion and purpose along with your paycheck. Here’s how to do it.
The truth about what to do if you either hate your job or are stagnating in your career is to take action to fix it. You can contemplate the practicality of it all you want, but realistically, the longer you hold out on making a change, the longer you’re leaving your happiness on the table.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of your current situation. When you have pressing deadlines to hit today, it’s always the things that can be done tomorrow that get pushed out. And all too often, it’s your career development that’s left on the backburner. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you continually overlook your moving from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.
The deadlines will continue. The hectic schedule never ends. Later never comes. And that’s all the more reason to start strategizing your career of tomorrow today.
The best way to strategize your career is to start from an endpoint and work backwards. Where do you want to end up? Is there a title you want? A number you want to reach financially? A milestone you would like to accomplish? Essentially, if you want to get from point A to point B, you should know where point B is.
A good place to start is to create resumes for yourself for 5, 10 and even 20 years down the line. Include expected job titles, new duties, and other accomplishments you’d expect to achieve along the way.
Use this time to also take inventory of the skills, qualifications and experience you have now and check them against what you’ll need in the future. This way, you can easily figure out what you'll need to work on to close the gap in experience, skills and qualifications you'll need for the next level.
Set Clear, Measurable Goals
Anytime you talk strategy, you need to outline goals, which are so important, yet usually not even set. Goals give people purpose, and the less abstract they are, the better. When goals are abstract, they’re not measurable, and always give opportunity to rationalize complacency. On the other hand, tangible, attainable goals are much more likely to be met.
When strategizing your career development, you’ll want to set “SMART” goals. Quantifiable, time-tracked “SMART” goals work for a reason — they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
Work backward from your endpoint to chart out your goals. Break up larger goals into smaller, more achievable steps. Incremental goals help you get started on your path to achievement.
These smaller steps break up otherwise daunting hurdles to success and help you gain momentum, which then allows you to focus on the bigger goals on the horizon.
Have Regular Check-ins
The best way to miss a goal is to forget about it. Instead, write your goals down. You’re even better off if you share this goal with a colleague, friend or even hire a talent development specialist who can help you stay on track while giving you extra accountability -- because, after all, you’re paying for it.
Reflect Along the Way
While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of your current job, taking the time to reflect on your goals not only keeps you grounded in purpose, but also helps keep you motivated in the process. Plus, reflection is proven to increase performance and productivity — it’s even tied to success. In fact, one study found that workers who reflected for 15 minutes each day outperformed their counterparts by almost 25%.
Reflection allows you to analyze your observations and experiences. It’s a chance to draw meaning from them that’s applicable for your future.
Some things you should consider while reflecting are your personal goals and growth, your job satisfaction, the skills you need to refine or develop, and your passions. Don’t forget your passions. They’re far too often overlooked, and usually the lynchpin for your happiness.
Set intentional time for reflection into your schedule, whether that’s weekly, monthly, or a biannual check-in. Don’t be afraid to fine tune your goals and plan along the way. As you gain more experience and knowledge working toward fulfillment, you may find that there are certain things you don’t really want to do after all.
It’s common for people to think about work and say there’s always things we have to do that we don’t want to, but why? It’s our life. And our career. For more information about how to find purpose and passion in your work, contact us at Info@DavidCouperConsulting.com.
Josh Espinosa is a freelance writer and designer. He also founded the Approachable Music project, a music education business on a mission to make learning to play easier and more efficient.