The Managing Your Career series of mind maps and articles is designed to help you manage your career path far more effectively by providing specific guidelines to assist you along your journey towards your career goals and objectives. This series includes the following mind map topics:
- Part 1: Exploring Your Career Path
- Part 2: Mapping Your Career Path
- Part 3: Achieving Career Success
Each article in this series has been adapted from the Successful Managers Handbook (DK Essential Managers) and related sources.
Video Overview of IQ Matrix
How to Explore Your Career Path
Our career paths can change and shift suddenly. Some doors close, while other doors swing wide open, allowing us to take advantage of new opportunities and circumstances that could change our lives forever.
This IQ Matrix and accompanying article delves into career exploration, helping you to prepare yourself to adapt to the changing conditions and circumstances that could potentially influence your career direction.
We will delve into the following areas:
- The research that you must conduct to stay on top of career/industry trends and changes.
- How to review and plan for the future to help you accelerate your career prospects.
- The importance of ongoing personal development and lifelong learning.
Each of these areas will be explored within this article and are also visualized within the IQ Matrix for easy reference.
Researching Your Career Prospects
One of the fundamental keys to success comes down to your ability to stay abreast on changing conditions and circumstances that might impact your business, life or career path. Hence, it’s absolutely critical that we get into the habit of consistently researching and preparing for the future, because who really knows what the future will bring.
To begin with, ask yourself these fundamentally important questions that will help you to think more critically about your career prospects and options:
Do I see myself carving out a new career path?
Do I have a great business idea that I would like to explore in more detail?
Would I like to work within a different industry?
Would I like to work for a different sized organization?
Do I want to move up the management ladder within my company?
Would I sacrifice my salary for a more fulfilling career path?
Answering these questions will help you to better understand what your “wants” and “needs” are when it comes to your career path. However, wanting and needing something is wonderful on the surface, but it means very little unless you clearly understand the industry and the potential opportunities that you might be able to take advantage of as you move forward into the future.
Study, Study and Study…
It’s absolutely critical that you take time to study your industry, the trends and other factors that could impact your career today and in the future. Staying on top of these factors will provide you with the confidence and assurance you need to make the right decisions when change is forced upon you.
An important decision that you must make is to choose whether you want to work in the private or public sector. Each of these has unique advantages and disadvantages. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer here, it’s rather what suits you best and your current circumstances.
Furthermore, you must decide whether you want to continue working for someone else, or whether you would prefer to choose the self-employment or franchising path.
If you are considering self-employment as a future career path, then consider conducting research in the following areas:
- The product or service you will sell.
- How you will provide maximum value and distinguish yourself from others.
- The competition already within the marketplace.
- The demands of the marketplace and the demographics of the client-base.
- The potential income that could be generated from this business.
- The potential time involved and the commitments that you will need to make.
- Any advantages and disadvantages that you can think of that could influence your decision.
Choosing to be self-employed isn’t easy and most of the time it actually involves a lot more work and effort, however, in the long-run if things are done correctly, it can be very fulfilling and rewarding.
Researching Your Industry and Prospects
Maybe the self-employment or franchising path isn’t right for you, or you’re simply not yet ready to take that plunge. You must therefore stay on top of events, trends and opportunities within your industry or within the industry you desire to work for. Subsequently it’s important to focus on consistently researching newspapers, trade magazines and the internet for the following things:
- Job vacancies within potential companies for future employment.
- Job role suitability based on your skills, strengths, experience and ambition.
- The size, management structure, environment and culture of the companies you potentially wish to work for.
- The advantages and disadvantages of working for particular companies.
- Industry trends and major players within the marketplace (network with them).
- Forecasts of job availabilities within specific industries.
It’s important to always focus on finding out as much information as possible about your industry, because the more you know the better you will be able to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. Likewise, this research will build a strong foundation for your plan of action as you move forward with your career.
Focus on the Right Things
While you’re conducting research, it’s important to also expand your horizons and connect with like-minded individuals who have the information, knowledge, authority or contacts you need to help you advance your career. Keeping this in mind, be sure to focus your attention on the following areas:
Talk with employment agencies about job opportunities and trends, asking them to connect you with the right people who can make a difference to your career prospects.
Attend industry seminars, exhibitions and events whenever possible.
Network with professionals, colleagues, family and friends asking them for help and assistance. Who knows, maybe they know someone who could potentially help you get ahead.
Above all else, while conducting research and networking with others always keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance along your journey. The more thorough you are at this stage, the more effective the planning stage will be.
Review and Plan Your Career
When it comes to your long-term career prospects, it’s important to review the progress you have made up to this point, and to plan a suitable path for the future.
You can conduct regular reviews on a monthly basis, however it’s also paramount that you conduct a review after changing jobs or when you complete a major work project.
The main purpose of these reviews is to enable you to learn from past successes and mistakes. This will not only help you to better understand yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses, but will also assist you with planning out your future career path and the actions you will need to take in order to get there.
As with every period of contemplation and analysis, it’s important to list down a variety of critical questions that you must ask yourself as you go through the review process. These questions will enable you to gain unique insights and understandings that will help you better adjust your course of action as you move towards your career objectives. Ask yourself:
What have I accomplished since my last review?
What objectives did I fail to accomplish?
What mistakes did I make along the way?
What difficulties did I encounter?
What did I learn from these setbacks?
What aspects of my work don’t suit me at this time?
What work activities would I like to focus more time on?
What new goals must I set to move my career forward?
What new knowledge and skills could be required?
How will I go about achieving these new goals?
What difficulties could I potentially face?
It’s absolutely critical that you monitor your progress in this way, because it will help you to stay focused on the most important things that will have the greatest impact on your career prospects.
Creating a Career Plan
Once you’re in the habit of conducting regular review sessions, now comes time to set some clear targets that you can work towards on a daily and weekly basis.
As far as your career goes, it’s recommended to always look at least five years into the future and create a plan of action for this time period. Ask yourself:
What do I want to achieve within the next 5 years?
What are my plans over the next 12 months?
Is this realistic given my current circumstances, priorities and resources?
Where might I need to start making changes in order to achieve these goals?
Any plan you draw up has to be realistic and achievable given the resources you currently have on hand, or the resources you will be able to gain access to in the future if required.
If for instance your plan doesn’t take into account your resources, then you will most likely struggle to follow-through with your actions, or you will be riddled with self-limiting beliefs.
Lifelong Personal Development
People make progress along their career paths or work their way up the career ladder because they’re always open to learning and growing. When we take time to expand our knowledge, awareness and understanding in any area, we immediately gain an advantage over those who don’t.
The renowned business and personal development author Brian Tracy once said that if you’re not learning, growing and improving yourself every single day, then you’re actually moving backwards. This is a very eye-opening insight which suggests that if we’re not taking the time to develop our skills and knowledge on a daily basis, then those who are will most likely be promoted before us.
We need to always be learning and adapting to changing conditions, trends and circumstances, otherwise we will fall behind and therefore fail to live up to our career aspirations.
Take Responsibility for Your Future
There’s only one person responsible for your future, and that person is YOU. You must therefore commit yourself to take time each day to learn and develop the necessary knowledge and skills required to help you launch your career to another level.
Here are some guidelines that will help you along your path:
- Stay on top of industry news and developments.
- Gain new knowledge about your career and industry by reading books.
- Enrol in courses and workshops that will help develop your skills and abilities.
- Read professional industry journals.
- Become a regular reader of self-help books that will assist you in learning more about yourself and your motivations.
- Take time to gain experience in a new area that is relevant to your career prospects.
The more time you spend improving yourself, the greater momentum you will create to help propel your career forward in ways that you might not have expected. However, to begin with, small steps and patience is paramount.
Join Learning or MasterMind Groups
One of the best ways to keep yourself motivated to learn and grow on a weekly basis is to join learning or MasterMind groups. These are simply groups of people with similar goals, aspirations and interests who meet up on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis to plan, manage and facilitate the process of learning as it applies to their career prospects. These groups can also help provide you with the support and feedback you need to assist you with overcoming career challenges and setbacks.
Consider Something New
At times some of the best decisions we can make lead us down the path of unique insights, perspectives and experience. For instance:
- Taking a sabbatical can help refresh your body and mind. Subsequently this can assist you to think more clearly and effectively.
- Job swapping can assist you with gaining experience in a new industry or position.
- Work shadowing or work experience can assist you with gaining new insights and perspectives.
- Hiring a mentor or coach can provide you with the guidance and support you need to keep you on track and moving towards your career objectives.
In the past we might have been able to get away with coasting-along our career paths, however these days things have changed. If you coast, then you will end up burnt like toast. Coasting is for coasters, and not for people who are truly serious about their career goals and objectives.
This concludes Part 1 of a three part series of articles that will explore how to manage your career path more effectively. Keep an eye out for the remaining two articles within this series in the weeks to come.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I would be very happy to hear your comments and feedback.