Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to plan your next career move

I assume you have thought about a what-do-I-want-to-be-doing-in-five-years career goal. Though for lots of us it has never quite formed into anything beyond "I want to be happy and in charge of my destiny."

Maybe it feels a bit vague and you can't figure out how you think you are going to get there.  So write something down; make it moderately specific.  And don't panic. It can change.  But find something to write down that you feel good about at least for now - don't feel you are going to be trapped by it.  If you have a few ideas write them all down and then follow these steps for each one.

Now write down three (or four or five) steps that you might have to make to get there.  They could be to move to a particular company or to get particular new clients. They could be taking on new responsibilities where you are.  Or picking projects that will strengthen your portfolio.  They could be investment you have to make or courses you have to take.  Write them down. And figure out the order they need to come in.

Okay: now you have a track to head out on.  So the next piece of the pie is staying on that track.  Here I want to introduce you to the idea of a cognitive dissonance.  I want you to stay on that track and I want you also to be open to other tracks.  Got that?  Since you now have the track marked out - you can on a daily and weekly basis pick the three sub-steps you will need to make to get to the next step.  And each of those steps can have its steps.  It is like producing a movie.  When you first read a complex script involving alien creatures and locations in Rio and Shanghai and Mars and a cast of thousands it can look daunting.  But a producer will break it down into tiny manageable steps: as small as booking the airline tickets or making a first sketch of the Mars base.  These small steps will be easy to take - and put together they will add up to a major Memorial Day worldwide release.
So set out on your track. It is very satisfying to know why you are doing what you are doing and where it can take you.  And pay attention when you pick your jobs or your clients or the color palette for your website or the typeface, or the charity you volunteer for - and  ask yourself if each little choice is taking you in the direction you want to be going.
The wonderful thing about this is it will get you into a flow.  Your neurons will be happy and you will be happy. You will not be floundering or guessing.  You will know where you are going.  You will feel justified in what you are doing because you will have justified it. 

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