When discussing career paths with those who have several years of experience in their field, you’ll often hear the phrase “I fell into this industry,” or “I lucked out and got a job.” Their memories are likely glossing over the hard work and strategic planning that went into each step of their career path. The reality is that it is extremely rare for someone to be “handed” a job. Each phase of a person’s career reflects a choice they made to take a particular step, a connection they made, an application they submitted and an interview that followed.
Regardless of the stage of your career, to take the next step you will have to make choices and take actions. Below are a few steps involved in strategically planning those choices and actions.
What’s the right path for you?
As you consider the next step you want to take in your career, picture where your interest and abilities align. Perhaps you’re most interested in becoming a functional expert. Maybe the next step is into middle or senior management.
- Functional Expert
Make your mark based on your specialized skills and expertise
- Middle Management
Take charge of how your organization gets things done
- Senior Management
Provide the vision and direction for your organization
What’s your next move?
Once you’ve determined the next step in your career, consider the likelihood that you can take that step within your current organization or whether you’ll need to transition to a new organization, industry or geography.
- Internal Promotion
Take on an upward role to increase your responsibility, or a lateral move to expand your skills
- Target Company or Industry
Go after that dream employer who can provide the experience and opportunity you seek
- Target Location
Gain regional or international experience to prepare yourself for bigger things
What’s your strategy?
After you’ve decided what the next step is for you and where that step will take you, plan the actions you’ll take to get to that next level. Each of these actions will likely take time and effort, but the investment in your career will be worth it if you’re able to position yourself for that next step that keeps your career moving forward.
Plan Your Timing
- Prepare to transition 6-12 months ahead of time
- Update your resume and LinkedIn profile
- Close any knowledge gaps
- Keep up with emerging trends in your industry
- Build a portfolio of your accomplishments
Find A Mentor (or become a mentor)
- Learn intricacies of executive success
- Share ideas and strategies
- Meet the right people
- Avoid potential land mines
- Study successful leaders
- Research target industry
Build Your Network
- Attend networking events
- Connect on social media
- Partner with a recruiter
- Gather advocates and influencers
- Join or form a mastermind group