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Five Steps to Career Heaven

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Wed. 25th May 2016.

Do you spend over a third of your life feeling demotivated and miserable? You might if you’re in a job that you don’t enjoy. So what are you doing about it? Most people do nothing, but if you make an effort it can pay dividends, as I found out from personal experience.

After graduating I went into my first permanent position. I did the role for four years, and made good career progress, but I realised that I needed a change. People around me were in a similar situation, yet they did nothing. But I did something about it and, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I followed a very simple, structured process.

Firstly, you need to understand your current circumstances. Establishing your situation means that you can start to set objectives and build a plan of how to achieve them. You’ll need to consider aspects such as your current level of performance, whether you enjoy what you do and if you are progressing at the rate you want to. You should also think about your short and long-term aspirations and goals – where do you want to be in the future and what does success look like for you?

Secondly, you need to build up a detailed understanding of yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses – both from a work and personal point of view? How easy would it be to develop your weaknesses? How could you maximise your strengths? What do you enjoy, or have you enjoyed doing and what don’t you enjoy, or haven’t you enjoyed doing? What are your values, needs and wants from a personal and work viewpoint? In order to help with this, as well as using your own thoughts and ideas you can get information from many other sources – customers, colleagues, your boss, people who work for you, psychometric tests or your partner or spouse.

Thirdly, you need to build up an understanding of the options available to you and refine that list to those options that you think are worth pursuing. Initially you should keep your options as broad as possible, considering whether you want to grow in your current role, move into a new job and also what your ultimate job is. You then need to narrow your list to realistic options. Which options genuinely match your needs and would also be achievable? You may have to compromise but your initial view should be to stretch yourself as far as you can – be both imaginative and ambitious. You may require more information about the options to help your analysis.

Fourthly, you need to put a plan together to achieve your chosen option. You should think how to close the gap between your current situation and where you would like to be in the future. Who can help you? What are the ways to close the gap? What can and can’t you develop? What are the timescales you are working to? What are your plans if you don’t achieve your goal? How will you review your progress?

Finally, you need to implement your plan and review it. Start working through the action steps you defined and review your progress. When you achieve success you’ll need to think about your next goal and work through the steps again. If you’re not successful, you must consider why. Do you need to learn more about yourself? Do you need more help in developing options? You may need to start from the first step of the process and think again about the gaps.

Of course, following this process can’t guarantee success. There may be some luck involved. There may be an element of being in the right place at the right time, but you must be prepared to take opportunities as they arise, and potentially create opportunities of they don’t exist. If you follow these simple steps – understand your aspirations, develop, review and refine your options and produce and action a plan to achieve them – you stand a better chance of realising your goals. If you’re successful and achieve what you want you’ll be more motivated and committed in your job. This can only have positive benefits to you and your organisation. It certainly worked for me.