12 Feb Grow your career and seize your success: 18 questions to career plan
Are you wondering where you should take your career?
If someone asked you, “Where do you want your career to be in a decade, would you have an answer?”
You go into work every day and focus on your to-do list. But you might wonder whether you should also focus on career planning and growth.
Career planning isn’t just an optional exercise
Taking time for career planning can work to your advantage and here is why.
Career planning helps you make decisions about where you want to take your job skills and knowledge. You can think more intentionally about who you network with, what professional development looks like, and how you want to go about your annual performance plan.
If you aren’t thinking long-term, your career will evolve without intention. That might be ok but you risk ending up in a role that feels like a dead end. To be clear, I don’t believe in linear career growth where every job is laid out carefully. But you do want to aim yourself in a way that builds on your strengths, takes you on your chosen financial path, and aligns with your life style and values.
Plus, if you aren’t intentional, others may pigeonhole you based on where they think you should take your career. You may take positions where you are less apt to succeed. If you fail to plan, you might limit opportunities that would otherwise be available to you.
And finally, to position yourself for your next role, you’ll want to have a plan in place.
When should I do some career planning?
Are one of the statements below true for you?
1. I want to move up the ladder (more responsibility and income)
2. I don’t feel I’m in quite the right position or career.
3. There is no more room for growth.
4. I’m no longer fulfilled at work or I’m bored.
5. I don’t have confidence and don’t think I am standing out amongst my peers.
6. I want to achieve something bigger in my career.
If you answered yes to any of these, you will want to think more intentionally about where you want to take your career. Take a moment to walk through the questions below to think about your plan. We’ll be thinking mostly about your shorter term plan in the next 2-4 years but I have a note at the bottom about why to also think long-term.
Questions to Aim Your Career
To get clarity about the short-and longer term, there are a few key questions you want to ask yourself to become more intentional about your career growth.
Part 1: Step Back and Look at the Bigger Picture
1. What criteria are most important to me when I think of measuring career success?
Criteria can include: growth potential, income, professional development opportunities, culture, work-life balance. It can be whatever you feel is important.
2. If I am thinking about career growth, what does that mean to me?
Do you want to elevate to more senior leadership positions? If so, what kinds of roles would I succeed in most? Does career growth mean having a bigger impact? Pursuing professional development? Gain more certifications or expertise? Does growth mean an increase in salary?
3. What does the ideal workplace look like?
Here you will want to think about the kind of organization you want to work for and its culture. Do you want a large or small organization? Do you enjoy working in teams? Are you looking for formal or informal settings? If you have a specific organization in mind, write it down.
4. What strengths do I want to lean on in order to grow my career?
When we use our strengths in our day-to-day work, we are more likely to grow a successful career and feel fulfilled. Your strengths are your core talents – not your skills or knowledge. If you haven’t identified your strengths, you can make this an action item below.
5. How would I like to put my current knowledge and skills to work? Or, what new knowledge am I curious about?
By mid-career, we have amassed a wealth of skills and knowledge. Take a moment to think about how you might want to them to work. In addition, ask yourself if there are new skills and knowledge you want to invest in.
6. What am I passionate about? What impact do I want to have on other people’s lives?
What makes you feel passionate? This can be about the impact they want to have on the world. It can also be about your interest in a certain field of work.
7. What are my life style objectives?
Is work life balance a high priority? Are you looking for a workplace that supports families? Is flexible work a priority? Do you want a role that allows you commute from home periodically? Do you want to travel?
8. What are my financial goals for my career?
What kind of income targets would I ideally seek for my career in the shorter (2-4 years) timeframe and in the long-term (5-10 years) time horizon?
Part 2: Brainstorm some next steps
In this next section, you want to identify different actions that will help you get clarity on your career direction and/or take action where you have clarity. The questions below are meant to help you generate ideas. (Hint: Part 3 will be where you get focused on your actual next steps)
1. Do I feel in charge of your own career direction? If not, how can I gain more confidence and take charge?
2. What are some goals I want to take in my current position to help me grow my career (1 year goals)?
3. What resources can I tap into to help me reach those 1 year goals? Consider both resources at your current organization and externally. (professional development, mentorship, annual performance plans, professional coach)
4. Where would I like to be in the next 2-4 years? (Are there skills and competencies to invest in? Are there gaps that help me move forward? Is there experience, education, training, certification, or mentorship to invest in?)
5. If I am planning to aim for a new job internally or externally, what role would I am for?
6. Are there mentors who can give me valuable advice about where to take my career? If not, how could I identify helpful mentors?
7. Are there education or training opportunities that will help me learn and grow?
8. Is there a need to do more to market myself and my abilities so that I may do a better job to secure opportunities and grow my career?
If you are not feeling clear about next steps, do not fret. I work with many people every day that are pretty clear about what they don’t want but feel fuzzy about what they do want.
9. What are my strengths and how can I engage them? (Your strengths are a key to aiming for a role where you can succeed and feel fulfilled)
10. What are a few next steps I can take to get more clear about the type of work I want to do?
Part 3: Take action
Look at the list of ideas above in Part 2, what do you think is the highest priority for your career in the next year to help you aim your career in the next 2-4 years.
Take a moment right now and identify 1-3 actions that you can take right now. It could be one of the following:
• Revisit your professional development goals with your supervisor
• Research available leadership courses or skill building classes
• Identify and engage a career development coach
• Complete strengths profile to identify roles where I can succeed
Grab an excellent career development plan template from the International Association of Women here.
A note on thinking longer-term
The exercises above are designed to help you take action over the next year so you can do some career planning for the next 2-4. years. I also encourage you to take a moment to think longer term about your career. Maybe 5-10 years into the future instead of just the next few years.
Many of us have already put in 10 or even 20 years into our career. But if you plan to work until age 60 or 65, you still have at least 10, 15, or even 20 years left. Take a moment to calculate how much long you will be in the work force.
Have you thought much about where you want to be toward the end of your career? Chances you are thinking mostly about how to get the next project finished!
Thinking longer term doesn’t mean you need a detailed plan. But you want to be thinking about how to lay the groundwork (e.g. skills, knowledge, experience) for where you want to eventually go.