Planning Your Career: Who’s Driving the Bus?

Career building for many young employees can feel like an abstract concept. You’ll often hear the interview question “where do you see yourself in five years?” You might think the correct answer is supposed to be something that sounds good, like, “at this amazing company, working hard!” You may be surprised to hear that’s entirely the wrong answer to give. What that questioner is really asking you about is simple: Your career goals.

Short-term or Long-term?

Setting career goals is often a question of what you should be chasing after: opportunity, or salary? When you’re young and have student loans to repay or a young family to feed, you may decide to focus on salary. Money is important, but simply going to the next highest bidder who offers a larger salary can lead to viewing yourself as a commodity. Leaving one job to take another job for a greater title, without a guiding strategy, can be more fool’s gold. This is why it’s so important to have a plan in place.

Planning a career is what career building is all about – setting long-term goals and short-term objectives. Long-term goals are accomplishments over time, which you proactively manage by meeting short-term, measurable objectives. It takes disciplined thought and follow-through to ensure you meet those objectives. It’s not just motivation, but hard work. How many people have you met (or worked with) who talk about a goal, but lacked the ability to pull it off? It’s likely because those goals either did not align with their long-term objective, or perhaps they had yet to establish any.

Say your goal is to be earning a specific amount of money by a certain year. The way to get there is to set measurable objectives every year. How can you increase your contribution to the organization? Are there training courses you can sign up for? How can you increase your visibility? Did you make any notable achievements in the past year? How are you viewed within the company? Review and revise the strategies you use to build on the positive equity you’ve created.

Contribution Over Charisma

In most cases, simply “doing your job” isn’t enough to separate you from the pack. Opportunities don’t come around that often, so learning to spot them (and knowing which ones have high visibility) is the key. All opportunities come in spurts and sudden gushes. Careers are built on performance and timing. People recognize contribution that is grounded on technical and tactical competence.  This is valued much greater than relationships or charisma.  You must continuously learn and put that learning into practice. If you realize this early in your career, you can then set your five-year goals, because you now know the path to standing out.

Opportunity, promotions, raises and bonuses will never be consistent with year-to-year growth. Sticking to your strategies/objectives and being a constant learner enables you to take on larger projects with more responsibility.  Apply those learnings, put those new skills into action and get faster at doing so makes you a high performer which opens doors of opportunity. This yields results which are tangible.

The Adventure Continues…

If you do this then I can guarantee a career full of adventure. A career that is a lot of work, full of challenges, moments of extreme frustration, but also full of monetary reward, fond memories and a being part of organizations that have a positive impact on people.  The rewards will fill you with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

This has been another article in our “From the desk of” series, special content created just for you, from our CEO Brad Eller. Share it as you wish, in the form of a link, or informally. The intent is to help your people align their career goals with the everyday needs of the organization, creating value.

This is post #3 in our Leadership Series. If you missed the first two, click this link: