What’s your plan? If 2019 was not all you’d hoped for at work, you might be thinking of moving on this year. Here’s an alternative idea: create a plan to grow and thrive where you are right now.
Large companies often create career plans for rising stars. The plans help leadership prepare for the future by identifying needs and gaps in the workforce and looking at existing talent to fill them. If your company doesn’t have a clear plan for your progression, there’s no reason you can’t work on one for yourself. You can start by asking for your manager’s input, but you might do even better by drafting something yourself so she has a starting point. It will be much easier to edit one than for her to create one.
The benefits of a career plan are obvious. You’ll have goals in place to keep you motivated. You’ll also stay focused on what’s most important for your current role – and for your future role. You and your manager will have ways to measure your progress and performance, and she’ll be less worried about the possibility that you’ll be moving on to greener pastures.
York University (based in the United Kingdom) offers these suggestions for writing your own career plan:
- Understand your team structure
It’s important to know how your team is set up, and where the team’s responsibilities lie within the company as a whole. Get your head fully around how your team is integral to the business, and plan goals accordingly.
- Consult with your manager
Unless you’re running a company, there’s always likely to be someone in a more senior position than yourself. Make sure that you sit down and discuss your future aims with them. They’ll have invaluable advice for you, and they’ll be interested in tracking your progress.
- Understand what you can’t control
Understand what you can’t control. As useful as a plan can be, it’s impossible to cover every potential outcome or eventuality. A good way to partially counter this is by plotting out ‘what if’ scenarios. An obvious example here is your team either not hitting their own goals or failing to perform. Safeguard yourself and the company by preparing for this possible eventuality.
- Look to the future
While short-term goals are handy, it would be wise to set up a few targets based around long-term progression as well. Picture where you see yourself in five years; which track suits you best? Managing teams or systems? Sales? Service? Finance? Marketing? Where you’ve started isn’t necessarily where you have to end up. When you can visualize your future role, you can start building in-the-moment goals around these future ambitions.
- Don’t just set work-related goals
While everything should ultimately tie back in to making you as good as possible at your job, don’t be afraid to set goals which aren’t directly work-related. Personal development shouldn’t be overlooked. You can work on education (both formal and informal), health goals, financial planning, and building your network.
After you’ve created a plan, it’s important to create a system for accountability and support if you need it. York University suggest these step:
- Schedule reviews
You can meet with your manager as frequently as you see fit. It’s important to keep on top of your goals by making sure you’re on the right path. During this process, you’ll also get more clear on what your manager’s priorities are and why they’re important.
- Get help if required
If you’re really struggling to come up with or reach relevant targets, you can always ask for help. This doesn’t just mean from your manager alone. If you’re part of a team, or a manager yourself, your coworkers or staff might be able to provide advice on the kinds of targets you can set or how you can improve your performance right now.
- Assess your workload
Does your work actually tie in to the goals you’ve set for yourself? It could be that you’ve slowly drifted away from the role you were in when you set your targets. Make sure you compare your workload and what you’re achieving to your goals. Are you stretching your skill set? Asking for new responsibilities is a good way to increase your value to the company and prove you’re ready for the next step.
- Track accomplishments
Keep a detailed record of everything you’ve achieved. A journal can help you assess how well you’re progressing with your overall plan, and will come in handy when you’re due for your annual evaluations. The accomplishment journal is also a great resource for updating your resume and preparing for interviews as well. It can be hard to recall specifics like dates, budgets and team members years after a project has ended.
For access to the full career planning guide and other useful resources, visit the University of York’s site.