The Business Women Media: Why you need to have a career plan - Michelle Gibbings

In this article featured in The Business Women Media, Michelle writes about the reasons why you need to have a career plan.

Career success isn’t an accident, and at a time when how we work is fundamentally changing it requires increased focus and planning. This isn’t the traditional 10 year plan that people did in the past.

Ditch the linear plan

In the past, people were encouraged to think of their career as linear, where they entered the workforce after school or university, explored a few roles, and then mid-way through their career landed something that kept them employed until retirement.

Careers, these days, are fluid, flexible, organic and adaptive – taking a degree of reinvention.   This means that people need to adaptable, ready to continuously learn and be prepared to take charge of their career development and planning.

Gone is the notion of working in one organisation for life. Gone is the notion of one role type or function for life.  Gone is the notion that someone will plan your career for you.  Gone is the notion that you can sit back and just let your career happen.

Disrupt yourself

As Salim Ismail, the author of Exponential Organisations and an expert in helping organisations leverage technology and strategy to grow faster, said: “Today, if you’re not disrupting yourself, someone else is; your fate is tobe either the disrupter or the disrupted.  There is no middle ground.”

While his comments were directed to organisations, they equally apply to workers.

Organisations – particularly large ones – undergo constant restructures and organisational change. Five years ago the cycle was a restructure every two years or so, while these days it can be as frequent as every 12 – 18 months.

There’s also the growing casualisation of the workforce as the number of people in part time employment rises faster than full time employment.  While the ‘gig’ economy is seeing more and more people hired for short term, contract and project based assignments.

Tim Ferris in his best-selling book, The Four Hour Work Week, radically shifted how people think about work.   He challenged the notion of the orthodox 9 – 5 working week, and how it’s the value you add rather than the number of hours you work that is more important.  He showed the choices that people can make with their career.

If a person sits back and waits for other people to manage their career for them they will quickly get left behind.  They’ll also miss out on the opportunity to design a career that works for them and matches their lifestyle and life goals.

Lead your career

Now more than ever workers need to be comfortable designing and orchestrating their own career path. They need to become the leader of their career.

Great leaders:

  • Set direction and take action to get there
  • Back themselves and seek to continually develop themselves – knowing there is always more to learn
  • Surround themselves with people who will help them get the job done
  • Know themselves and seek to understand others

The same goes with career planning and development. People who plan and lead their career:

  • Take time to actively plan their career. They set aside time to reflect on the goals they want to achieve, progress made and key next steps
  • Don’t wait for the organisation they work for to develop them. They see learning as crucial to future success and therefore constantly seek out new ideas and ways to stretch themselves
  • Have a deep and broad network which they are keen to continue to nourish and expand
  • See the acquisition of deep self-understanding and emotional intelligence as important as their technical skills

When it comes to career planning doing it right doesn’t mean there is only one way or one path to follow.  It’s about being proactive and deliberate about the choices a person makes, to lead their career in the way they want to be led.