“What was I thinking?”
Have you ever asked yourself this when you received exactly what you asked for? Perhaps you wanted the promotion or to work for your dream company, only to realize it wasn’t at all what you had expected.
If you have been in the workforce a few years, you likely have been advised to set some career goals. “You need to know where you are going,” you’ve been told.
This is fantastic advice if you know where you are going. But do you really know where you want to be in 2, 5 or 10 years?
Really? Heck, as fast as the business world is changing, how can you even imagine the challenges and opportunities that will be available in a few years?
Some of us have clear career goals, like my friend Rebecca who knew since the age of 5 that she wanted to be a doctor.
And then there are the rest of us. We’re smart, slightly (or hugely) competitive, and want to make a difference through our work. We are also the people left scratching our heads wondering how to make a career plan if we don’t know where we are going.
The fact of the matter is, if you have a clear vision or not, there is one critical career planning step you need to take to ensure your career grows in the right direction.
Career planning most frequently suggests planning WHERE you want to go.
But it is even more important to ask for WHAT you want in your future roles, than the exact role.
When you focus on WHERE you want to go, you risk getting the promotion AND the nightmare-of-a-boss. You may get hired into your dream company only to realize the culture is a terrible match for your personality, leaving you exhausted before you even show up to your now-nightmare work.
Instead, the most important — and most overlooked — step of career planning is to get clear on the attributes, or the WHAT, of your next work steps.
There are two key reasons why this is so important. First, we don’t control everything and can’t ensure we are going to land the job. Second, we may land the job and discover that it is not what we wanted. Not even close.
Research shows that when an athlete visualizes a perfect routine, they are more likely to execute that flawless routine.
The same is true in your career. If you envision what you want to achieve, you are more likely to achieve it.
If you identify a goal, plan the steps to get there, AND if you can visualize how you feel in that role and can see all of the surrounding attributes, you are more likely to achieve that scenario.
If you don’t know what that next step is, but know what it feels like and know the attributes that surround the job, you will be more likely to land in that exact role.
When you think about your future role, ask yourself:
- What is the culture of the team?
- What is the level of visibility and impact you have?
- What are you compensated?
- What is the level of work-life balance you maintain?
- Are you managing a team or independent?
- Do you have fiery debates or is the atmosphere more peaceful?
- How much, and what type of feedback do you receive?
May your next role be everything you envision!