Everyone knows what "career planning" and "career path" mean, but in these times of seemingly constant change in the workplace, do these ideas have any purpose anymore?
This question came up for me when a new client said that she wanted me to help her determine a three to five year career path. She realized that her corporation was so busy reacting to the latest major business challenge that they were unable to provide any career development or mentoring to its people. Resources were too scarce, and corporate focus was too unclear -- my client knew that she would have to be proactive in designing her own career path.
This has been true in many companies for a long time. But rather than give up the idea that you can shape the direction of your career and resign yourself to being a pinball, you can take steps to direct where you're heading.
1.) Find a mentor. It hardly seems fair that along with clearing your own career path you've got to find your own mentor, too. But the good news is that many successful people ahead of you on the career curve are willing to be mentors if you ask. Many successful people are where they are today because of their own mentors. People who have benefited from mentors want to do their part to keep the practice going.
A mentor is simply someone who has experience, knowledge and insight that you find valuable who is willing to share that with you. Some mentors may be instrumental in you landing your next promotion, while other mentors may be good for a cup of coffee and a chat twice a year.
Look around where you work, think about where you used to work, and think about other people you know unconnected with your work. Ask someone out for coffee or schedule a meeting and see what happens. You don't have to ask, "Will you be my mentor?" Just start building relationships with interesting people, and be open to being a mentor yourself.
2.) Take time to dream. Every once in a while step back from your work and really think about it. Would you be happy doing this for the next two years, 15 years or even 15 minutes? Where do you want to go from here?
Most of us are so busy living life from one task on our list to the other that we don't make time to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture of our career. Write down some notes about the future. What do you want to do more of and less of? Get used to the practice of thinking ahead about your career.