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Developing a Career Strategy

Some people think that the development of their career is out of their hands. After all, you can’t get a job, promotion, or project without someone else giving it to you, right?

Well, on one level, that’s true. However, what you do and how far you go in life is in reality up to one person: you. Great careers don’t just happen – if you want a career that excites and challenges you, then you need to plan for it.

Key Points

Developing an effective career strategy is a vital step in fulfilling your professional potential and getting your dream job.

Career Planning includes the following steps:

  1. Review strengths, weaknesses, motivators, and values
  2. What is your edge over others?
  3. Research possibilities and take advantage of available opportunities
  4. Develop skills, experience and expertise
  5. Network
  6. Analyze current options
  7. Take action (short and long term goals)

Step 1: Review Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Motivators, and Values

Developing a career strategy is like constructing a building. You have to start with a solid foundation and, bit by bit, work your way towards the top.

Before you do anything else, you need to analyze your strengths and weaknesses, as well as understanding your values and what motivates you.

So, start by looking at your strengths and weaknesses. What do you excel at in the role you’re in now? And, what skills have allowed you to shine in previous roles? Conversely, what are your weakest skills, or the tasks you find most difficult?

Remember, strengths and weaknesses aren’t always obvious. For instance, you might be great at creating harmony in a group; you might be very good at winning others over to your side; or, you might have a talent for inspiring people to go along with a new initiative. These are all strengths!

Next, analyze what motivates you:

  • What tasks, projects, or roles get you excited, right now?
  • What type of role would you be motivated to work towards in the future?
  • What interests you about your current position, your colleagues, and your organization?
  • Which responsibilities would you enjoy that you don’t already have?

Step 2: Know Your Advantage

Once you have a good idea of your strengths and motivators, you need to identify your advantage. This is something that you can do uniquely well, compared with the people around you; a strength, skill set, or quality unique to you that will add value to your organization.

It’s important to know your comparative advantage because using this trait or skill will help you succeed in your career. Remember, your comparative advantage isn’t always what you do best; it’s something you’re better at than anyone else.

If you’re struggling to discover your advantage, think back to the last few performance reviews you’ve had. Has you been praised or commended for particular skills, traits, or successes on a consistent basis? If so, this might offer some clues as to your comparative advantage.

Step 3: Research Possibilities and Make the Most of Opportunities

Whether you can see them right away or not, there may be many opportunities for growth and advancement in your organization, and in your current industry. But it’s up to you to identify and make the most of these opportunities.

Make sure that you stay up-to-date with career and industry events. Are there any upcoming trade shows or conferences that you would benefit from attending?

The people around you can also help you identify opportunities. For instance, an experienced mentor can help you enormously in your career, especially when he or she is someone that you trust and respect.

Step 4: Develop Expertise

By now, you should be starting to create an image in your mind that revolves around what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, what motivates you, and the opportunities you have available.

Now you need to develop the expertise needed for the next step forward. To build expertise, identify the knowledge, skills, certifications, or degrees you’ll need to reach the role you’d most like to have.

Step 5: Network

Networking is an important aspect of creating a career strategy. After all, people can only help you if they know about you, which is why you need to get to know the people who can help you achieve your goals.

You can network in person or online using social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Step 6: Analyze Your Options

What are your short term goals?

  • Is there an upcoming project that would allow you to showcase your comparative advantage, so that you can shine in front of people who matter?
  • Is there a challenging task that you could do to use your skills in a new way?
  • Is there any way that you can obtain experience?
  • See if you can come up with a list of options that will start you moving in the right direction.

Step 7: Take Action

By this stage, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are my strongest strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What motivates me?
  • What do I do that makes me truly happy?
  • What are my top five values?
  • What’s my edge over others? What makes me unique?
  • What knowledge, skills or qualifications do I need to acquire to move forward?
  • Who can help me advance?
  • What options are available to me right now that could allow me either to use my skills in a new way, or to really stand out from the crowd?

Now, you are ready to take action and start realizing your plan.