Career Management When You’re Busy AF
> Career management doesn’t need to take a ton of time
Some folks have always known what they wanted to do with their lives. The lawyers, doctors and architects committed early on to years of training to make it in their chosen profession.
But most of us simply fall into a career. Maybe you ended up in sales because that’s just the first job you landed - and you ended up being pretty good at it.
Or maybe you’re an operations pro - but you only went into that profession in the first place because a family friend gave you a job.
Whether your career starts out on an intentional path or not, it can be easy to just go with the flow.
If you’re a lawyer, your career path is set out for you - but have you stopped to think about whether making partner is still what you want?
If you’ve found a company you love and a job you’re good at, perhaps you’re letting the direction of the company and your chosen team determine your career path. But have you considered that you might be happier and more valuable in a different team?
Or maybe, you’re only just keeping your head above water and trying not to lose your mind.
With the day to day demands of our job - not to mention the pressures of life outside work - you only have enough energy to just keep going.
Onto the next tasks for next week and the next projects for next year.
Other than an annual review, we don’t often get time to reflect on our jobs, what we’ve achieved and - most importantly - what we want going forward.
And in our annual reviews, forward planning is only done in the context of your current role and company.
But we humans are ever-changing. You probably don’t have the same exact interests you had five years ago.
You probably don’t have the same lifestyle you had five years ago.
Hell, you may not even have the same partner you had five years ago.
So why is it that so many of us are content to stay in the same kind of job we’ve always been in?
Sure, some of us have truly found our calling and know that we’re on the right career path.
But many of us just continue on whatever path we’re on without giving too much thought to alternatives - except in our daydreams of becoming the next Jeff Bezos, of course.
What would happen if, instead of letting our career be driven by external factors, we took back the steering wheel?
By investing time and energy into the management of your career, you will find more success and fulfillment.
If you reflect and discover you’re in exactly the field you want to be in, awesome! You can plan how to really excel in this field.
If you reflect and discover there are other opportunities you’d like to explore, you can create a plan to let you do that.
Consciously planning your career is a small investment that will continue to deliver returns on your path to career success.
Why Should I Plan My Career?
We’ve all heard the saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. But this doesn’t just apply to business plans and birthday parties. Your career needs planning too.
The Gallup organization, known for their consumer polls on a wide variety of topics, has been surveying millions of workers around the world since 2000. Every couple of years, they publish their findings in an annual report on job satisfaction.
For the past 10-15 years, it’s hasn’t improved much at all. About 80% of workers globally are not happy at work. In the US, people who aren’t engaged with and/or hate their jobs usually floats around 70% year-to-year.
This can be due to a huge number of reasons but many of us are unhappy because we feel unfulfilled. This could be because we’re in the wrong job (our skills aren’t being utilized) or we’re at the wrong level (we deserve a promotion but haven’t managed to nab one yet).
Many of us have a general feeling of being stuck or unfulfilled - and it’s only at that point that we decide to do something about it.
But when we wait ‘til that feeling strikes, it’s more difficult to overcome it.
At the point where you decide that it’s time for a promotion, a new job or a career change, you’ve got months - or even years - of work ahead of you to make it a reality.
If you get to this point only after feeling demotivated and drained, it’s even more of a slog.
Clever career management means that you know ahead of time what you want from your career - and you have plenty of time to work towards making it a reality.
Is This Just For Fresh Faced Grads?
Okay, so you’re reading this and you’re thinking “well I’m already 20 years into my career so what good is this going to do me?”
We hear you. But the truth is, career planning can happen at any point in your career.
We’ve all heard a story or two about a 40-year-old lawyer who quit his firm to become an artist or the surgeon who spent a couple of years in night college before pursuing her path in engineering.
It’s never too late to start career planning - and it’s something that should be revisited regularly, no matter what stage of your career you’re at. Even if just to act as confirmation that everything is as it should be.
You Ready? Here’s The Plan.
Career management starts with career planning. It sounds super official but really it’s just about figuring out what you want from your career.
To do this, we’ve put together a step-by-step framework for you to follow. It starts with an initial self check then, taking baby steps toward goals and making adjustments along the way.
Step #1: Schedule One Weekend Morning, Afternoon Or Evening For Yourself
When we try to make plans for the future within our existing environment, we tend to come up with ideas that look a lot like the present.
Career planning during your commute to work or on your lunch break will limit your thinking.
To really approach this with an open mind and a different perspective, it’s essential that you dedicate time to it and put yourself in a different surrounding.
Why do you think so many companies have their strategy days offsite in remote towns and - if you’re really lucky - even in different countries?
Because being in new and different surroundings sparks creativity and helps you step out of your regular thinking patterns.
Removing yourself from your daily routines and regular environments also helps you to keep your mind off of your day to day stresses and demands.
So, when it comes to your career planning, we recommend booking in a solo retreat with yourself to gather your thoughts - that would be the most ideal way
When you combine your career planning with a bit of self-care, you can relax and plan your future at the same time.
However, not many of us can take an entire weekend to ourselves. If that's the case, just set aside a 3-hour block of uninterruptible time during your weekend. Then, get yourself away from life’s chaos.
Here are our top picks for places to switch off from the daily distractions and start planning your future. Be sure to bring a pen and a pad of paper:
A) Think it through with Mother Nature. Spend a few hours in a park, beach or forest. Make it your own mini picnic and bring along some snacks and drinks.
B) Hit the spa! We heard that the best ideas come to you in the middle of a massage!
C) A spiritual center that resonates with you. Many people find that their mind is clearer when at church, a temple or whatever spiritual center works for you.
D) A creative space of your choosing. Whether it’s a museum or an art gallery, you can find silence and inspiration somewhere arty.
E) Or, head to your local library and find a secluded spot to think and scribble some ideas. There’s the bonus factor of having books about career development right there too.
Putting yourself in a calmer and different environment will help you to get more clarity, think more creatively - and you’ll have more fun!
Step #2: Get Real With Yourself
To keep your career on track, sit yourself down for a career appraisal at least once a year. This is your time to reflect on the past year, see if you’ve met your career objectives and decide on what changes need to be made.
Turn it into a ‘me day’ and lock yourself away somewhere you won’t be disturbed, get yourself a nice meal and some snacks, maybe even add a glass of wine...or two...or three. 😉
This doesn’t have to be boring. Taking control of your career and planning your future success should be fun!
A) Review Your Current Situation
Start your appraisal by taking stock of your situation. Are you happy at work? Are you fulfilled in your job? Have you met the objectives you set for yourself?
Think about your job and your company separately. Is the job right for you? Does it utilize your skills?
Does your company culture fit? Do you enjoy being in your office? Do you have a good relationship with your colleagues?
B) Decide What You Want
It’s easy to pick out what’s not working for us at work, but the only way to fix it is to know what you truly want from your career.
Keeping in mind your current situation and what you don’t want, take some time to figure out what your ideal career would look like.
Think about different aspects of your work life and decide what they would look like in an ideal world.
We’re most fulfilled when we’re putting our skills to work. Take some time to think about your talents and what skills you would like to use in your current or next job.
This is less about job titles and more about how you want to spend your days. So instead of general skills like ‘sales’, perhaps what you really enjoy doing is connecting with people, pitching and public speaking.
Hands up if you want more money! Yeah, we thought so…
We would all love to earn millions but when it comes to career planning, it’s more important to think about a realistic estimate of what you would like to earn.
Don’t just calculate what you would need to survive - decide what you would need to be comfortable, whatever that means for you.
We all thrive in different kinds of environments. What would be your ideal company culture?
We spend so much of our time at work that our surroundings can have a material impact on our mental health.
If you need a creative, relaxed environment to thrive, working in a stuffy, corporate office will start to chip away at your soul. Dramatic, we know, but it’s the truth.
Think about the kind of place you would like to work - or maybe even decide that you would prefer to work from home.
Something that a lot of people forget about when making career decisions is...well...the whole rest of their lives that won’t be spent at work.
People take jobs for the money even though it’s clear from the start that they won’t have any spare time to spend that money.
People take what they think is their dream job...10,000 miles away from their home even though they have no desire to live in that city.
When making choices about our careers, we have to think about our lives.
What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead?
Do you need flexible working hours so you can be there for your kids or dependent parents?
Do you need minimal travel because you have other responsibilities?
Or maybe you love to travel and want a job that takes you around the world.
Whatever your lifestyle needs and wants are, write them down, however ridiculous or indulgent they may feel to you. There will come a time when you’ll need them to help you in your decision-making process.
C) Pat Yourself On The Back
We’re often so focused on our next goal that we don’t stop to celebrate our achievements.
Chances are, in the last year, you’ve done some awesome stuff that you’re proud of. But did you really stop to soak up all the glory and feel good about yourself? For more than a few minutes?
This is your chance to revel in your own glory. Write out a list of everything you’ve achieved in relation to your career over the last year or whenever you last did an appraisal.
Then, read over the list and take a moment to feel really proud of what you’ve done. No achievement is too small! Be sure to save this and have it ready for your workplace annual review.
Step #3: Make A Plan & Get Feedback
Once you’ve got a clear sense of your current situation and what you want, it’s time to put together an actionable plan to start making small and easy changes that will ultimately lead to where you want to be.
It’s also at this point where getting another perspective is always a good thing. It may uncover some things that you didn’t think about.
A) Spot The Gaps & Challenges
Looking at your current situation and comparing that with where you want to be, what is missing? Where and what are the big gaps?
Are there particular skills you’re not getting the chance to use? Does your pay package leave a lot to be desired?
Or maybe all is well with your job but the company where you work is full of politics and assholes.
Identifying these gaps or challenges will allow you to take the next step of working through them.
B) Look For Opportunities
Once you’ve identified what’s missing or the challenges in your career, you can start to find ways to address that.
What opportunities are available for you to resolve these issues?
Before jumping to the idea of quitting your job and working somewhere else, take some time to see if there are ways to improve the situation while staying at your current company.
C) Come Up With An Action Plan
Looking at the gaps and opportunities you’ve identified, it’s time to come up with some new objectives. These will focus on what you want to achieve in the next year.
As well as these objectives though, you’ll want to come up with a more practical action plan.
Your action plan will focus on tasks you can complete now to tackle any issues you identified and propel you towards your longer-term objectives.
So, for example, if your new objective is to get promoted in the next year, your action plan might include a conversation with your manager about this, and taking on a mentee in your team.
D) Get Some Feedback
They say that two heads are better than one, and that’s the case for career planning too. It’s super important for you to get clarity on what you want and need from your career but getting feedback from others can also help us a lot.
By discussing your career plan with someone else, you may come up with different ideas, discover opportunities you hadn’t considered, and maybe even land your next job!
You don’t have to share all of the work you’ve done but having a general conversation with someone about your aspirations is an important step in your career planning.
Choose someone who is supportive but comfortable enough with you to give their honest opinion. There’s no point discussing things with someone who will just agree with everything you say.
Maybe you could chat with your BFF or that one friend who seems to know everything about everything.
If you have a mentor from outside of your workplace, they would also be an excellent person to discuss your career plan with. As well as having a wealth of experience to share, they are also probably well connected and can make some valuable introductions for you.
Whoever you decide to speak to, come to the conversation hungry for feedback and be open to new ideas. This step will either leave you even more certain of the ideas you came up with yourself, or will give you some fresh inspiration to take a different route.
Step #4: Take Action On Your Plan Via Baby Steps
Now that you know what you want from your career, it’s time to take action! Start by creating some short-term objectives from the big goal.
Your objectives will look different depending on your situation. If you realize you’re in a career that isn’t fulfilling any of your needs, your main short-term objective may be to update your resume and search through your personal network of contacts for opportunities.
It’s important to break your goals and objectives down into the smallest tasks possible. When we’re faced with huge goals that seem distant, it’s easy to lose motivation.
We can start to feel like we’re not making any progress and eventually get so disillusioned that we just give up.
It’s like trying to lose all your excess weight - just the thought alone makes it seem impossible. There are so many things that you need to do from diet, nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. It’s so overwhelming when you think of everything you have to do.
But, when you break it down to one easily achievable mini-task like drinking water instead of soda or taking one flight of stairs instead of the elevator all the way, you can create a tiny bit of momentum that will build with the next mini-task and so on.
And before you know it, you’ve lost a pound in a week from that one small change.
This short video really explains it well.
VIDEO: One Small Change That Creates Massive Results
YOUTUBE: Break the Twitch
> Break big goals down into the smallest tasks and do them
> Small tasks are much easier to accomplish
> Each completed small task moves you one step further
By breaking down our larger goals and objectives into smaller mini tasks, we can really increase our chances of actually doing them. And each time we do, it moves us one step closer to our goal and gives us a little boost of confidence and happiness.
Not only does this help us to feel better about ourselves, but it also helps us maintain motivation and momentum towards our goals.
Here’s an example that’s career-related.
Goal: Transition from a project manager to a new marketing-related job.
Mini-task 1: Write down all the marketing-related skills you developed over the years.
Mini-task 2: Create a marketing themed resume from your existing resume.
Mini-task 3: Research your personal network for marketing job opportunities.
Mini-task 4: Reach out to one relevant contact for marketing opportunities.
Mini-task 5: Set-up a phone call with that one contact to discuss.
Mini-task 6: Apply for the marketing position.
Mini-task 7: Interview for the marketing position.
Mini-task 8: Get hired as the newest member of the marketing team!
If you just look at the goal, it can seem out of reach. But, the first mini-task is definitely doable and something that you can accomplish today - leading to a small quick win that will give you the motivation and momentum to complete the next mini-task and the next and so on until you’re crossing the finish line.
This approach to goal setting will help you feel continually positive about your chances of success and get you moving forward and making progress.
Step #5: Check Your Progress & Make Adjustments
How many times have you written out some goals or plans, felt really motivated and excited about them for a week...and then never looked at them again?
We’re all guilty of this! That’s why it’s so important to review your goals regularly and see how you’re progressing.
We know, we know, you’re busy! But this doesn’t have to take a lot of time and it really will have a positive impact on your career success.
To make things as easy as possible, set a monthly reminder on your work or personal calendar and integrate it into an existing routine you already have.
If you’ve got a stellar morning or evening routine, then once every month, you can swap out one of your activities like reading or journalling for your career plan assessment.
If you have a long commute, you could choose to take that time to mentally run through your assessment on the morning drive to work or on the evening trip home.
Try to slot this into your regular routine to make it easier to complete and almost impossible to come up with excuses for.
So set the reminder - go ahead, do it right now even if you haven’t made the plan yet. At least that’s one thing off the to-do list!
During your 30-minute check-in, think back over your mini milestones. How many of them have you completed? Of the ongoing ones, how many have fallen out of your routine?
There’s no need to beat yourself up about anything you’ve been slacking on - just take this opportunity to recommit to your plan.
Revising your goals and milestones regularly will help to keep you on track and remind you of what you’re working towards.
At the one year point, it’s time to go back to Step 1 and start the whole process again.
Chances are, some things have changed, so you’ll probably have new objectives and, therefore, new goals to decide.
If you work through this process every year, not only will you find that you’re really clear on where you’re going in your career - but you’ll also find yourself excelling and reaching your goals even faster than you expected. Not bad for a time commitment of a few hours a year!
Be Your Own Celebrity Manager Or Hire One
Have you noticed that celebrities always have a manager?
Their managers are the ones who pull the strings - they spot the opportunities, manage the personal brands and help these celebs reach stardom.
Well if they can have managers then so can we!
The only difference is, we have to be our own managers. We have to take control of our careers and make sure that we use them to create the life we want for ourselves.
When you’re already on a particular career path, it can feel like you may as well just keep going. You can clearly see what your next step should be and feel relatively comfortable you’ll be able to make it happen.
But it’s never too late to start basing your career decisions on what you truly want, rather than what will naturally happen.
By taking some time to plan and manage your career, you will be taking back the reins! You’ll be able to create a career that will leave you feeling fulfilled, and will support the lifestyle you want to lead, rather than competing with it.
If you’ve reached this point in the article and you’re thinking “This all sounds great in theory...but I wouldn’t even know where to start!” then fear not.
If all of this is still a bit too much, then consider getting a career coach who can guide you through the process and help keep you on track toward your goals. They’re the equivalent of agents to celebs.
However, before you hire a career coach, try this on your own first. You just might be surprised at what you’ll discover about yourself.
So, what are you doing this weekend?
How about setting a date with yourself?
Pizza, vino and some kickass career planning. It’s a date!