Career planning is very much like a political strategy. Like any political strategy, it involves asking a few key questions: are you getting the introductions and job opportunities that match your impact and skills? Are you meeting the kind of people that will take you to where you want to go? How good is your network? What do people in your network bring to the table?
Identify your goals: Start at the end and identify where you want to be. Pick an end point and work back from there. You might for example be seeking a promotion. Maybe you’re after some funding for your start-up. Then set a target date.
Identify people in your network: success depends on who you know. Identify who has the most influence over your career, who has the most influence over them. Find out what you can offer the influential people—expertise, assistance on a project, help with networking—and ways to cultivate unique knowledge or skills they’d find valuable. Everybody you meet is a potential contact. Then make a list of the groups you should join because they hold sway or will allow you to meet key contacts. When you join those groups, take a leadership position. The higher your public profile, the more career opportunities will come your way. Also, take the opportunity to be a speaker at conferences. It gets your name out there.
Get a mentor: Professional mentors guide you through your career. They share their experiences and offer practical advice. It’s best to find someone you admire, they don’t even necessarily have to be from your industry, who you can model yourself on. It’s best to find someone outside the organisation. Ask the person if they want to engage in a professional mentoring relationship and explain what that means to you. It can be a meeting once a month to discuss what you’re working on. Also, make sure you set aside time for phone chats.
Keep your CV up to date. Resumes are important because you never know when an opportunity will come up. It’s a critical document so it’s best not to rush it. Which is why it needs to be kept up to date, rather than putting something hastily when something comes up. Most resumes these days are scanned by computers so make sure you use key words. Just remember, the person screening the resumes is usually not the person doing the hiring. Their job is just to get the number of job applications down to a manageable number by eliminating as many resumes as possible. So make sure you have all the key words that can get you in through the door.
Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it up to date: This doesn’t mean going overboard with constant updates about every book or article you’ve read but it does mean the profile, history, work situation and picture is up to date. People check these things.
Build your personal brand: With blogs, Twitter and Facebook, it’s easy these days to have thousands of people get to know you. Just be careful what you put out there.
Do pro-bono and volunteering work: This kind of work builds new skills and creates new contacts. It revitalises you and gives you fresh perspectives. Let’s say for example you are a manager with a company but you need leadership experience.
Taking a leadership position in a voluntary organisation will give you skills and experience to move ahead.