“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy
You may have your dream job in mind and you are well fired up to get it. However, sheer drive and determination will not be enough to take you to the heights of success that you envision for yourself.
Having a game plan set for your career is necessary. Knowing where to go and the steps for arriving at your destination is an essential part of living the life you want. Much like needing a map (or a high-tech navigation system) when you go out to travel, your professional path also needs a dependable guide.
Practical steps for charting your career path
While not everything is set in stone, charting out the ideal trajectory of your career is a must.
1. Know Thyself
You have to know who you are before you can discern where you want to go. Conduct a personal assessment of yourself. Make an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Better yet, how about making a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis?
Determining these factors, along with your personal values and principles, will guide you in charting out your career. Having a deep understanding of what you want, what you are capable of, and what you need to improve on, are the fundamental factors that you need to ponder upon.
Also take into consideration your interests, educational background, experience, and ideal work environment. What do you enjoy doing? Do you have any leadership training to speak of? Are you particular about compensation and other work benefits? These are key elements in shaping a successful career plan.
2. Plot Your Destination
Having a good dose of self-awareness, you can then proceed to planning where you want to go. But first, ask yourself: How do I define success?
The definition of success is different for everyone. Others may measure it by the amount of material wealth they have. Some may view success as the freedom to do something they love. You need to know what success means to you. Only then can you pinpoint your goal and the corresponding timeline to achieve it.
Do you want to have your own thriving business in five years’ time? Are you looking to be promoted every year? How much do you aim to earn within the next three years? Are you planning to buy a house, build a family, tour the world? Visualize where you want to go and how long it will take.
Be mindful, however, to set realistic goals. This is not to say that you shouldn’t dream big. You definitely can, but take care not to be overwhelmed.
3. The Steps to Success
This is where taking bite-size pieces is important so as not to choke on your dream. With a defined destination in view, creating a clear course of action is your next step.
Outline the process of blazing a path to your career success. What opportunities are available to you? List down all the possible resources where you can get support to make your dreams a reality:
- Include people who can mentor you
- Professionals in team coaching
- Associations and memberships in professional and business clubs
- Friends and family. Nurture a healthy network of people who can provide guidance and nuggets of wisdom in your career journey.
Think of possible threats to your career strategy as well. Are there any roadblocks that you can think of? Brainstorm and feel free to discuss your plan with a trusted advisor who can give his two cents’ worth. Sometimes, you need another set of eyes to see if there are any loopholes or areas for improvement.
When you have designed that main framework for your career path, take a step back. Review the process and check if there is anything you missed. Go over your strategy at least every quarter to check if you are still on track. Adjust and revise as necessary.
The Journey Begins
With a command of your identity and abilities, clarity of vision, and the knowledge of the steps to achieve your goals, you are now ready to go forth and conquer. Work with dedication. Balance your career with a healthy lifestyle. Learn to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground even while your wings allow you to soar.
With your well-thought-out career map, and fuelled with perseverance and passion, your journey towards success will surely be an adventure worth taking.
Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.