As we near a new year, it is customary to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Most of go through the effort of setting resolutions to only forget what they were by February and starting to plan for next year by June. Over the years, most of us discovered that our habits are hard to break. Some of the reasons include:
- We underestimate how strong bad habits are to overcome and believe when can change anything about ourselves with ease;
- We focus more on immediate than long term rewards;
- Our brain finds comfort in routine and we are drawn toward it at a subconscious level; and
- Stress tends of support negative behaviors.
More simply, we are programmed to take the most recognizable and rewarding path regardless if it meets our long term goals. Stress multiplies these behaviors and only increases our chances of going with what we know and find comforting.
So, how do we fight our nature when dealing with our career goals? We have all listened to friends and co-workers talk about the next “big” job that they are going to have. How do we transition from dreaming of the next move to making it?
One option is to adopt an approach similar to business planning. Businesses, like people tend to suffer from inertia. It is much easier to continue with past practices then try something new. More than a few businesses have failed because the environment changed and the business did not. Once a year, every business owner or leadership team should go through a structured, business planning process that assesses the environment, sets goals, develops strategies, determines how goals will be measured, and operationalizes the plan.
As the managers of our own careers, we have to plan as well. We can use planning to successfully:
- choose an occupation;
- get a job;
- grow in a job;
- receive a promotion;
- gain new skills; and
- change jobs or careers.
The same elements that work for business planning translate well to career planning at a high level.
Mission Statement: What is my purpose? What do I really want from my career?
SWOT Analysis: What are my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the coming year and the future as a whole? How do I turn threats into opportunities? How do we capitalize on opportunities? How do I build on strengths while minimizing the impact of weaknesses?
Goals: What are my goals? How do they fit together? What do I need to accomplish in the short and long term? Do my goals match my abilities and opportunities?
Strategies: What are several strategies I can use to accomplish each of our goals?
Key Performance Indicators: How can I measure my progress? How do I know I am on the right path?
Operations Plan: What actions do I need to take to realize my goals? What time and resources do I need?
Once you have your plan, get started. The most successful implementations include monitoring. Take the time to account for what you have accomplished, what could be improved, and where you are headed next. As we plan for the New Year, start off right by deciding what you want to accomplish and how you can get there.