Feature: Making Smart Career Plans
It’s May. For many of us, that means it’s time to start making our summer plans. These holiday excursions and family trips are important events, so almost no one treats them cavalierly. We browse the Internet looking for vacation rentals. We talk to friends and co-workers about the trip packages they bought, the hotels they stayed in, and the restaurants they enjoyed. In short, we invest a lot of time and effort to make sure it all goes well and that we have memories we can treasure for a long, long time.
Why, then, don’t we invest a similar level of effort in making our career plans? Clearly, they’re just as important, just as central to our happiness this summer (and the rest of the year) and for a long, long time after that. Yet, most of us treat career planning as something only slightly better than a root canal. We only do it when we absolutely have to, and we wait until the absolutely last minute before we do so.
While there may be several reasons for this aversion to career planning, I believe one is the principal culprit. Most of us don’t know what career planning is or what it entails. The prospect of doing it, therefore, seems a whole more like work than planning a vacation.
Now, I won’t try and con you. Career planning does take some time and effort, and the gratification you get from doing it is different from what you experience lying on the beach getting a tan. But, there are some similarities:
What’s involved in building a good career plan? It takes just four steps:
Step 1: Figure out what you want to do with your career. In short, what is the objective of your work? As fundamental as that may sound, many of us spend our entire careers trying to earn an ever bigger paycheck rather than working to build up our sense of satisfaction and fulfillment at work. The U.S. Bill of Rights doesn’t promise wealth to all Americans; it guarantees them Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That’s what you want to focus your career on-the pursuit of whatever brings you real and lasting joy in your work-and it’s never to late too start that quest.
Step 2: Identify your Achievement goal. This is a goal that you can accomplish in the near term, say the next 6 to 12 months. It identifies an outcome you can achieve in your current job or employment situation, such as the completion of a special project, the solution to an especially tough problem or the resolution of strained relations with your boss or a co-worker. The Achievement goal enables you to make a meaningful contribution to your employer-that’s the only definition of loyalty that makes any sense in the 21st Century-and be loyal to yourself by advancing your own performance in the workplace-that’s the only way to enjoy true employment security in the 21st Century.
Step 3: Identify your Advancement goal. This is a goal that you can accomplish in the mid-to-longer term, say in the next two-to-three years. It identifies the next job you want to hold or the next level of work you want to be able to perform. It may involve your current employer or it may require that you move to another work situation, but it will always represent a major leap forward in your effort to develop and express your capabilities in the workplace. The Advancement goal is the way you ensure that your career is always moving forward-not up some employer’s corporate ladder-but ahead in terms of the skills and experience you are able to use in your work.
Step 4: Identify your Development goal. This goal is a bridge that connects your Achievement goal and your Advancement goal. It enables you to build on the success you achieve in your current job by adding the supplemental capabilities and knowledge that prepare you appropriately for the next challenge in your career. That might involve acquiring a new skill through training or a formal educational program; it might require that you achieve greater stature in your field through participation in your professional society or association; or, it might mean that you gain more sight and understanding about certain aspects of your work through discussions with a mentor.
Once you have these four goals in place, you need to revisit them from time-to-time to see how you’re doing. Just as we sometimes forget to make our plane reservations and thus lose out on that great holiday we’d planned, you can forget to focus on your career goals and lose out on the security, opportunity and, ultimately, the happiness we deserve from our work. I call this review process a “personal performance appraisal.” It’s a candid conversation that we hold with ourselves every quarter, just to make sure that we are still pursuing our own Happiness. If we keep ourselves focused on that outcome, we will always enjoy our careers as much as we enjoy our vacations.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. WEDDLE’s Newsletter grows only by word-of-mouth. So, please … tell a friend or colleague (or two) about the newsletter. We’d be very grateful, and they will be too.
Section Two: Site News You Can Use
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released some depressing news about changes in median weekly earnings for full time workers older than 25. Only one category of worker-Latino females-saw an increase between 2000 and 2004. Everyone else in the study-Latino males, African-American females, African-American males, Caucasian females, and Caucasian males-saw a decrease. Even more depressing, Caucasian males, Caucasian females, African-American males and Latino males actually saw their earnings decline over the period. How can you protect yourself? One way is to know what you’re worth in the job market. Make sure you check with such sources as your professional and/or trade association and sites such as Salary.com to determine what you should be paid for the skills and experience you bring to work in the location where you live. Then, use that information to adjust your own compensation expectations (and those of your spouse) and to negotiate a fair and appropriate starting salary with any prospective employer.
SpanglishJobs.com launched an employment site for “bilingual-Spanish and English or Hispanic speaking-professionals. The site also offers to “assist in Translation Communications between jobseekers (sic) & employers.” I don’t know why you’d need a translator if you’re bilingual, but maybe bilingual means something different in Spanglish.
TrueCareers released the results of a survey conducted among job seekers earlier this year. As with several previous polls, it found a large number of workers itching to get out of their current employer. Among respondents, nearly half plan to move on to a new organization as soon as they can, saying they want a “higher level, higher-paying position.” Perhaps most importantly, nearly one-third of this group is conducting their search passively. How do you do that? One of the best ways is to network, both online and off. In other words, passive job seeking does mean inactive job seeking. There’s still effort, but it’s less overt than answering employment ads and posting your resume on a job board. The goal of networking is to increase the number of people who know you and are aware of your capabilities. That’s why the Golden Rule of networking is so important. It’s simple enough: You have to give as good as you get. If you want people to be willing to help you find a new or better job, you have to be willing first to share of your own knowledge and expertise to help them. And, you have to work at that interaction all of the time. That’s why we use the word we do to describe the effort … it’s netWORK, not netRELAX.
The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA released a study of over 122,000 college freshmen at 236 colleges and universities. It found that 76% of the respondents are searching for a work-life with purpose or meaning. Some historians believe that this era in which we live will ultimately be known as the Age of Wealth, a time when the predominant motivation in people’s lives was the accumulation of money. I believe they’re wrong. I see a growing number of people-Baby Boomers as well as college freshmen-who are kicking the habit of keeping up with the Joneses and searching for a career that will enable them to realize the American Dream. That dream doesn’t promise us the lifestyle of the rich and famous; it guarantees us Life, Liberty and-here’s the key to purpose in our work-the pursuit of Happiness.
Vault.com launched a number of new industry employment channels on its site. They focus on careers in energy, transportation, manufacturing, education and construction/.architecture. The new channels supplement a number of others already operating on the site, including those in finance, consulting and government/nonprofit.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. You’ve quit your job in the big city to do something different, and a friend suggests a summer job at a dude ranch . Which of the following sites would help you lasso a good opportunity?
2. You’ve just received your teaching certificate and are looking for an elementary school position for the upcoming academic year. Which of the following sites would give your search a failing grade?
3. You’re a hot shot Java programmer looking to get out of contract work and into a full time gig with a corporate IT Department. Which of the following sites would put a bug in your transition effort?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005 Guides and Directories
Post full time jobs: Yes [nonprofit-ed.]
Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All
Distribution of jobs: International
Number of jobs: 2,700+
Salary levels of jobs: $31-50K/yr, $75-100K/yr
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: No
How long are resumes stored: N/A
Restrictions on who can post: N/A
Other services for job seekers: Listserv/discussion forum, Career information, Links to other sitres with additional information/resources
Answers to Site Insite
1. All but Cowboys.com, a site that sells products for those interested in a Western lifestyle.
2. WebTeacher.com, the site of a company selling software for Web databases.
3. JavaToGo.com, the site of a Web development company.