Thursday, 22 October 2009

Career planning

Following my post earlier today, I thought I should write some lines about career planning.

I just 'kind of' (i.e. not officially) accepted a new job which is slightly out of my comfort zone. It's within my own company, it's a sideways move to another department.

Whilst I am not completely sure (in my mind) that I am doing the right thing, it just feels right.

And I think I just figured out why.

You see, a manager in my past used to insist that we keep our own personal career planning document. At the time it felt like a massive waste of time. After all, what did I know 10 years ago what I'd like to do today. But somehow I got into the habit of doing this.

I kept a mind map where I wrote down for each job what I liked and didn't like about it. I also wrote down what I still wanted to get better in and what I wanted to learn.

I just had a look through it. I always marked my creativity and ability to come up with fancy designs and ideas as a weakness. And as an area I'm not really that interested in. But I always put 'marketing' as a strong area of interest. And better understanding of data, analysis etc. I often came across a note 'should learn some SAS or other data programming' and 'really enjoy data; good with numbers' or 'can read numbers'.

I never considered a role in Business Intelligence. Not really. In my review I wrote down about 6 months ago I noted 'maybe I would want to move into BI at some point'. But I put that thought aside. After all, I'm not a BI person. I am a marketer. A Chartered Marketer even. But BI is marketing as well, isn't it? And with my weakness in creativity, I'll never become Head of Marketing, so why not move try to move forward in a slightly parallel area.

But I am moving off topic - this is not supposed to be about me, but about career planning. I really think this is something all of us should do on a regular basis. I do it once a year. You can use a mind map, or simply a notepad. It doesn't have to take a lot of time. But it is important that you are honest with yourself. Nobody else will ever have to see the document. It's just for you.

Step 1: Current job
What is it you currently do? What do you enjoy about it, what don't you like about it? What are your strengths in the current job, what are your weaknesses in it? What others strengths do you have that are not currently utilised in the role?

Step 2: Ambitions
Were you are standing right now, where do you see your future? Do you want to do what you do now? Or work in a different field? Do you want to stay on the same level or progress? How high up the career ladder do you want to go?

Remember, this is your document. It's not a binding agreement that this is what you will do. You have the right to change your mind. So think about it - in 1 years time, in 5 years time, in 10 years time. Where do you want to be.

Step 3: Next steps
Now you know where you are and where you want to be. But how will you get there? Look at your future targets and review your strengths and weaknesses. What's standing in your way in the moment to get that job you might want to have in 1 years time?

This review will highlight what you need to focus on, where you need to gain knowledge, experience or guidance. What can you do today to make sure you can fulfill your dreams tomorrow?

Yes, you might change your mind over time. If you think that my ambitions for the next 10 years I drafted 5 years ago are the same that my ambitions for the next 5 years are now, you are badly mistaken. But a career plan ensures 2 things:

1. You prepare yourself for what you think now that you want to do
2. You don't stand still, keep learning and developing

The more you learn, the more you might realise that you misjudged yourself, that you don't actually enjoy a certain area that you focused on. But at least you find that out. Without a career plan you run the risk to just keep prodding along, thinking 'someday I might'. And you'll never get there and you'll never know if that was good or bad!

1/2 hour once a year can help you to make sure your career gives you what you want from it. I think it's a worthwhile investment.

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