A goal without a plan is just a wish
– Antoine de Saint- Exupéry
It is no secret that changing careers can be one of the most stressful things you can undertake, so the ability to not only convince others of your chosen path but also yourself is critical to your success.
In my experience as a career coach, the ability to clearly define and articulate your career plan has a two fold benefit.
Firstly it allows you to convey a genuine and compelling story to those in your professional and personal network.
More importantly though it also helps you validate to yourself the new direction you are taking.
A well constructed plan will help you navigate the uncertainty of the employment market.
One of the most confronting things that you will face in periods of transition is the lack of control over the outcomes and their timings. Should I really be planning that next holiday? Can I afford to take a break from looking at the market next month? What other industries should I be considering? How do I approach them? When will I next be working?
These simple decisions can very quickly become big decisions and often leave us with a feeling of paralysis … the rabbit in headlights scenario where we are not sure of what to do next. Being able to ‘see through the fog’ and take action is critical for retaining a sense of balance, a healthy perspective and a strong sense of self-confidence.
Regardless of whether you are transitioning to a new role internally making the shift to a new company; changing careers or launching into your own business; whether the decision to change has been chosen by you or imposed upon you, I believe that there are 8 key points that each warrant careful consideration and planning:
- Create a plan that starts with you
What do I want? Sounds like a fairly straightforward question and yet it is one that so many people find difficult.
Understanding and aligning your core values, skills and ambitions is essential as they become your guiding compass for considering and pursuing new opportunities.
It is only when you can identify and articulate what they are, that you are able to demonstrate the potential value that you can bring to a new employer.
- Gather the facts….become informed
It’s one thing to understand what you want to do; it’s another thing to know what the market will allow you to do.
Knowing your own local industry and market is important to helping you understand the unique complexities and timelines for your transition journey. What are the current trends emerging? What is the industry outlook in the next 2, 5, 10 years? What is the average time that it takes for someone at my level to successfully transition?
As with all effective plans, the starting point needs to be a clear and accurate measure of what the landscape looks like in order to move forward.
- Build your fitness
Building core strength, stamina and endurance are critical elements to any fitness plan. Most of us appreciate the need to build physical fitness but equally as important is the need to build technical, emotional, AND financial fitness if we are to embark upon the journey with confidence and last the distance. Ask yourself:
What technical skills do I need to improve or develop to position myself more competitively within the market place?
What emotional support frameworks do I need to build to support myself through this process?
Can my financial resources support the time and variances that may be required to execute the desired career change?
- Face the fear
As with any change, it is normal to expect that at some point the self-doubt and fear will creep in. Understanding this, we can be prepared for when it appears. One of the most effective ways for overcoming our doubts is to remain engaged in the process – connecting with our networks, remaining up to date and informed on our industry, exploring new areas where our skills can be easily transferred.
- Protect your relationships
It is important to not underestimate the value of the opportunity and the relationships you hold today. Delivering on your responsibilities and maintaining healthy relationships during a period of transition or departure is critical to managing your professional reputation.
- Connect…network authentically
No one can do it alone. Our networks are pivotal to our career success and critical during times of transition. The very mention of the word ‘networking’ though often strikes fear into the heart of many, as they are worried about being perceived as disingenuous and fake.
With current statistics suggesting that up to 75% of opportunities come through your networks or extended networks, a clear and robust plan for engagement is required.
Different networks require different approaches. Knowing how to initiate contact, engage and follow up with each one with a sincere sense of purpose is the key to successful networking and career success.
- Don’t peak too early
It’s one thing to decide that you are ready for a career change it is another to start engaging with the market and your networks.
If you start initiating conversations and meetings without a clear understanding of what you want to do and the value that you can bring to a potential employer, you are at risk of being perceived as ambiguous, indecisive and at worst irrelevant.
Before you initiate career conversations you need to ensure that you have a clear idea of what it is that you want and how you can offer value.
- Call time-out
It’s difficult to make a career change without a significant investment of time, effort and commitment. It can be intense, it can be arduous and if you aren’t careful it can completely consume your thinking. In order to keep balance and perspective it is important to take time out, re-energise and connect with family and friends.Give yourself permission to focus on other areas in your life and see the bigger picture of where work fits within it all.
For most of us it’s not the the change itself that is daunting but the transition process. With change an inevitable part of life and the business landscape today, we all need to be ready to embark upon a new career direction at any point.
What building blocks are your working on today and what do you consider to be the most valuable transition tools to include in your career plan? I would love to hear some of your thoughts below.
Margot – The Career Diplomat[vcex_divider][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you are currently embarking upon a career transition, why not sign up to our blog today and download our free transition checklist to help you prepare for the journey ahead.