Whether you dread or relish the type of interview question that goes something like, “where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, taking charge of your own career plan puts you on the trajectory to success. And, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Incremental, consistent effort towards developing your skills and experiences will get you where you want to be, faster than you expect.
If you have spent time on LinkedIn in recent years, you may have come across variations on the Japanese illustration of ikigai. These Venn diagrams are a simple but useful way of laying out the elements of personal purpose. Ikigai are also a helpful starting point for developing a career plan because people who work at the intersection of passion, skill and opportunity are more productive and engaged than those who don’t.
First, career planning involves taking inventory of your professional self. Give yourself time to reflect on what you love to do, what interests you, what you are good at, what captures your attention, and what do you want to be known for. Make a list of answers to these questions and notice points of overlap. Think of roles that align with your passions and learn more about them.
Seek out new sources of inspiration that expand your understanding of your interest areas to create a broad range of opportunity for yourself.
Next, build up your strengths. Take your best capabilities and make them better. Deep expertise in an area you are passionate about can be a career accelerator. If you want validation of your strengths or an outside opinion, assessments can help. The Strengths Finder assessment is a popular tool for identifying thought patterns and behaviors to insights on how to leverage them effectively. Another assessment to get clarity on your strengths is the VIA Character Strengths Survey, and it is free.
As you are exploring your interests and building on your strengths, focus on short-term gains in skills and capabilities that move you closer to your longer-term goals. Making a habit of self-improvement requires dedication, but growth happens through steady effort. Spending time every day or each week to advance your skills and expand your experiences will accelerate your career progress.
By working on the skills that you will need next in your career rather than having a sole focus on the pinnacle of your career, you will be able to take on projects and opportunities that provide the experiences that get you closer to your goals. On-the-job learning is an important part of growth and is an important way to supplement formal education. In fact, on-the-job learning can be more relevant and targeted than other types of learning. Having a mindset of learning something new each day can shift your perspective on client interactions, problem solving and projects. You will find opportunities to learn in everything you do by adopting a growth mindset.
As you develop your skills, keep what you want to be known for in mind. This can be the start of your personal brand. An authentic personal brand starts with a deep connection to purpose and values. Your reputation and legacy are also inherently part of your personal brand and can shape and direct your career path.
Last but not least, seek out others who are on similar career paths, regardless of where they are in their journey. Find or be a mentor to someone with shared interests. Be curious about the way they approach their career development and the experiences they have found essential to their success. Consider how their experiences relate to your goals and pursue the ones that make sense for you.
You have the ability to direct your career journey. By knowing where you want to be and investing your time and energy in building the required skills, you are taking charge of your career. While pieces of your career plan may be visible at various times in your work life, the final quilted plan is likely to become clearest in retrospect.