Put Your Career on the Fast Track

Are you clear about what you really want to do? Life is too short to spend most of your waking hours doing something that doesn’t really matter to you.

As an executive transition coach, I’m often asked how people should plan their career. It’s an interesting question since every case is different. For example, have you been in your job for three or more years and are ready for a change? Were you just been passed over for a promotion? Do you have a new boss who is giving you mixed signals? Did a search firm reach out and stir up your curiosity about what else might be out there? Did your company just merge creating competition for all existing roles? Are you clear about what you really want to do?

I believe the last question is the most important. If you have been in a role that no longer inspires you, and you don’t make a change, you have a long, boring career ahead of you. Life is too short to spend most of your waking hours doing something that doesn’t really matter to you. 

5 Critical Steps

1. Take time to complete executive assessments to learn more about yourself. Assessments can help you identify what you are good at, what challenges you, what work brings you the most satisfaction, and what culture aligns with your values. If your feedback report indicates a need for you to develop new skills or competencies, enroll in some courses so you become a more qualified and credible candidate. You will never make a better investment in yourself and in your career. 

2. Invest in a professional writer to add appropriate weight and sizzle to your resume and LinkedIn profile. Share your new resume with your boss and with HR so they better understand what new skills you have developed and results you have achieved for the company. They will see you in a new light and perhaps put your hat in the ring for roles you might be interested in. Additionally, you will have an up-to-date resume to share with others who inquire. Review it quarterly and add additional business results. 

3. Reach out to schedule a time to sit down with your boss to talk about your future. Make it clear that this is a career discussion, not a threat to leave the company. This will ensure the conversation is focused on what you are doing now and what you would like to do. Bring your new resume to the meeting so he or she will understand exactly what roles you would like to have and why you should be considered for certain positions. 

4. Remember that networking is important throughout your career. If you have a contact database, update the information and sort it into personal and professional contacts. Then indicate who you believe the real connectors are. Establish a regular contact schedule with them by sending a note as simple as: “Hello, ____ I hope you are well. It has been too long since we have connected and I miss seeing you. Can I buy you a cup of coffee or lunch to catch up in the next few weeks (of course, this is dependent on when the coronavirus restrictions are lifted)? I’m doing well as (role) at (company) and have enclosed my updated resume. I look forward to hearing from you.” 

5. Keep your eye on your professional goal. If you want to be the chief executive officer of a company, build a plan that connects the dots as you move up the ladder. (Remember that at every step you have to excel in the current role!) Here’s an example: If you are a marketing manager today, the likely next step will be in marketing, but it could go one of several ways. You might focus on a more technical marketing role such as digital marketing, from there to a director of marketing role and then chief marketing officer. Where do you go from there? Most companies have created a succession plan of sorts. The company might want to move you into a senior role in strategy or operations to round out your background and position you for a shot at being CEO. 

So there you are: a primer on career planning that should serve you well. Now’s the time to make it happen! 

Gail R. Meneley is a partner at Shields Meneley. Hundreds of high-profile executives in America have chosen her as their adviser and coach to advance their work and careers. They rely on her “straight talk” to help them think through their most important leadership and career decisions. As a result, their personal and organizational goals are reached sooner and with greater impact. Meneley’s clients include Allstate, Johnson & Johnson, Heller Financial, American Red Cross, McDonald’s, Baxter, Fort James, Bristol Meyers, Fleming, Galileo, Anthem Health, GE, Motorola, Quaker, CNA, R.R. Donnelley, Anheuser Busch, and Sears. As a leadership peer, Meneley has extensive P&L, strategy development, and management experience within professional services, financial services, and nonprofit sectors. She was president, CEO, and a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Institute of Financial Education, a national financial services training organization. She also has served on the boards of public and not-for-profit corporations, including the United States League Management Services, a subsidiary of the United States League of Savings Institutions in Washington, D.C.

 

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