Building Your Career
Tips on planning your future career
Successful executives are not just successful because they do a good job, but because they look to build their own career. This does not happen but by chance, but with forwarding planning. As such business executives can learn useful lessons from those engaged in politics.
This is not to say that those who have successful careers are Machiavellian by nature – manipulating or using others will only hurt you in the long run – but rather that they take the time to build authentic relationships, improve your work skills, and provide real value to others. Being successful at office politics does not mean that you have to compromise your integrity. The best politicians model good career development behaviors in that they:
- Set clear goals
- Reach out to supporters
- Build and exercise influence, and then
- Execute relentlessly to achieve their ambitions.
In short, you need to devise a campaign plan for your career.
You may be busy in your day-to-day work, however, if you ignore developing your career then this is at your own peril. By their very nature organizations are inherently political entities, and anyone who ignores those dynamics becomes subject to the vagaries of others. If you want to be successful you need to identify what you want to achieve and develop a plan for getting there.
Your Future Resume
This is a useful way of helping you identify what you need to achieve in order to realize your long-term goals. Determine where you want to be in the next 5 to 10 years. Be clear and specific. Now, for that position, rewrite your resume for those positions five or 10 years out. Ask yourself these types of questions:
- What education will I have obtained?
- What experience will I need to reach these positions and roles?
- What committees and/or organizations will I have belonged to?
- What will my interests be?
- What am I doing my spare time?
- Who will I have met and known who has helped me to reach this position?
- Who will I need to know or meet who can help me develop the necessary skills contacts and relationships for my next position or role?
Answering these questions helps you to get some clarity around what the focal point is around which you need to focus your efforts. Look at the people who are good role models for what you are looking to achieve. This will allow you to gain a broader and more inclusive perspective over the longer-term strategies you need to develop, rather than just looking at the short-term tactics you might use.
STEP 1: Setting Key Goals
Key Steps in Developing Your Career Campaign Plan
- Identify your goal–what do you want to achieve and by when? Be specific. You can periodically update your plan – or create a new, rewritten résumé – to match your changing goals.
- Focusing on your end goal, write down the dates that you consider crucial. For example, these might include annual performance reviews, project completion dates, application deadlines or other target dates. Beginning with the end in mind work back from the end goal date to where you are today. This will help you identify what you need to do today is aligned with helping you achieve what you want in the longer term
- Take Stock of Yourself.Three simple steps you take include:
- Identify the skills acquired by others who have reached your goal.In order to grow and develop you will need to change. You need to be clear on the skills capabilities, capacity, and experiences that you will need as well having the resilience and underlying attitude to help you succeed. This can be difficult to ascertain. So ask people, especially those who you aspire to be, about their experiences and how they moved up the ladder. Take what you can learn from them and see what you can apply that is most useful and relevant.
- Determine what skills you can learn on your own. For the rest, figure out how long formal study will take.Build time into your schedule for the skills you want, cultivate. If you don’t make the time, to begin with then you will never have the time to grow how you need to and you become frustrated and disappointed.
- Chart your skills development plan on your campaign calendar.Make it visible and plan it out. Print off monthly calendars for the duration of your planned career campaign so you can see what you have to do, by when, and how you are progressing.
STEP 2: Reach out to Supporters
Direct Power – know who you need to know
A lot of your success will come through your relationships with others. You need to ask yourself:
- “Who are the people who have the greatest power and influence over where I want to go and what I want to do?”
- “Who do I need to know and meet with and why?”
- “What do I want them to feel, think and say about me? From this what do I want them to do?”
- “How can I help them and be of use to them?” (it is a two-way street after all)
STEP 3: Build and Exercise Influence
Key People – Draw up a Power-Map
This is a simple tool that allows you to map out your key relationships (or lack of) with the key people you need to influence. Draw a map, with you at the center, and how you are linked to them (directly or indirectly), and who you need to go through to reach other people. Colour-code them: green for your allies, yellow for people you know slightly, and red for people you don’t know. From this, you can identify who and where you need to develop relationships, who needs to know you that doesn’t know you, and who knows you who can help you.
Indirect Influence – who are the people who although they lack formal power or authority are influential. For example, whose opinion does your boss value? Knowing this can help you to use the right messenger in persuading the key person with the power and formal authority.
Key Groups – think about which groups will help you connect with the people you want to meet—potential clients, higher-ups at your company, industry thought leaders—and eschew commitments that waste your time or yield minimal returns.
Here are some concrete steps for pinpointing who can help you in your career campaign:
- Draw a power map, using circles that show who has the most influence over your career—and, in turn, the people who have the most influence over them.
- Figure out what you can offer the influential people—expertise, assistance on a project, help with networking—and ways to cultivate unique knowledge or skills they’d find valuable.
- Make a list of the groups you should join because they hold sway or will allow you to meet key contacts.
STEP 4: Executing
In putting your strategies and actions into practice with the people you need to target you know need to build and maintain a relationship with them. Establish quarterly progress goals for yourself. Think about what you are doing that is relevant for them to spend 15 minutes with you. Make sure you are highly visible, especially when meeting with prominent people – it will help to make you more interesting and attractive to others, this makes it easier to meet with them. Try and create an “echo” for your name – make sure everyone hears your name everywhere whether it be articles, blogs, social media, presentations, reports, conferences etc. Key in doing this is to build the relationship first so that when you need their help later then they will be willing and know how to help you best.
Bring It All Together
Now you know what you are looking to do, with whom, how and by when – and with a clear outcome in mind – you need to bring it all together. Condense it into a clear plan with all the elements, the dates, and actions. Review it regularly and adapt it as you and/or your environment change.
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