How To Build A Career Strategy

Building a career strategy is never straightforward. The best-laid plans will go awry and you’ll be required to adjust. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t formulate a plan.

Building a career strategy is key to helping you reach your long-term goals. Start building your career strategy by focusing on three big-picture elements.

Short And Long Term Goals

It's difficult to predict your future or pin down exactly what your life will look like in one year, let alone ten years! However, it's important for you to sit down and visualize your career. What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals? Do you aspire to become a manager in three years? Maybe you want to pursue your MBA.

Short-term goals can be as specific as reaching a certain level in your career or as abstract as learning three new skills to broaden your base of knowledge within your field. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s only important that you can communicate your goals and begin working towards accomplishing them.

A good way to think about short-term goals is to create a two year, five year and eight-year goal. Again, the specifics of these goals should be fluid and may change as your life and interests change. What's most important is that you have formulated a short-term strategy comprised of achievable, realistic goals.

Long-term goals are a little different. Long-term goals should be extremely flexible because they will likely swing wildly. Some people know at age 23 what they want to do at age 56. Some people learn as they go. Just because you don’t know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life today, doesn’t mean you can’t make a strategy to reach your goals.

In my experience, people who are happy in their career and life can easily articulate their passions and their individual strengths. They know where they’ve been and where they are headed and have clarity in their purpose. Some clearly know they aspire to be a CFO of a Fortune 30 bank. Some only know they love art and want to pursue a career in art at all costs. Regardless of which phase you're in, create long-term goals!

Where do you see yourself in ten years, fifteen years and twenty years? Again, your long-term goals should be fluid. They are targets to work towards and are not necessarily a finish line.

How To Reach Your Goals

By now you have written down six goals. Study them. How will you accomplish your goals? Do you need to go back to school, pursue your CPA or get a business loan? Once you determine what steps you need to take to accomplish your goals, jot them down.

You now have a basic idea of what tasks, skills and milestones you need to reach to accomplish your goals. Again, this is a living plan so it may change. That’s okay. Your career strategy is meant to be a map to guide you as you progress in your career.

Launch Your Career Strategy

Planning your future is exciting, but now it's time to put your plan to work! Take your career strategy into consideration when evaluating career opportunities, volunteer activities or new projects at work. Before committing to a new job or project, make a determination if doing so will help you reach your goals.

As you go through your professional life, be selfish with your time. Apply effort towards functions and tasks that will either get you closer to reaching your goals or stretch your horizons to broaden your skills and open new paths. Don’t sit idle and wait for an opportunity to come to you. Seek out and pursue those things that will give you the best chance to reach your goals.

Refer to your career strategy frequently, but don’t let it handicap you. The best advice I can give is remain focused on your career strategy, but don’t close your eyes to the world around you. Your career strategy should not be so iron clad that you miss the chance to expand and grow. Flexibility is the key to true happiness and success!

Now What?

Planning a career strategy can be difficult, especially if you don’t have clarity surrounding your strengths, weaknesses and personal internal barriers. A career coach with experience in your industry will help you break down walls and explore your passions and interests. Stop treading water and start reaching your goals! Get started today!

About The Author

Recognized nationally as an industry leader in resume writing and career coaching, Jeanna McGinnis, CPRW is the Director of Client Triumph at Mentor Happy and a recognized Career Coach for Forbes Coaches Council. Jeanna previously held the position of AVP, Career Strategy with our parent company, A Players Executive Search Group Inc. where she remains a board member and active leader. Leveraging more than 16 years of experience directing hiring practices, career development and outplacement programs for multiple Fortune 100 companies, Jeanna and the Mentor Happy team are refreshing how busy professionals brand, market and drive their careers. Please connect with Jeanna on LinkedIn or the Mentor Happy team on Twitter to manage your career on your terms!