How Strategic Planning Can Help You Avoid A Career Catastrophe

How Strategic Planning Can Help You Avoid A Career Catastrophe

Once women have decided where they want to take their careers, there’s often a real enthusiasm and drive to take immediate action.

However, without strategic planning, there’s a risk that you’ll hem yourself into a role you don’t want or can’t progress from, or that you’ll find the job isn’t what you hoped for.

For example, when I was in my twenties, I drove from the North East of England to Madrid in Spain. Before I set off I sat down with my dad and mapped out my entire route. We decided which motorways, roads and junctions I should follow, and created a back-up plan in case there were roadworks or accidents. We even planned where I would buy petrol before I boarded the ferry! Can you imagine what would have happened if I had just got in the car and set off with no idea of the territory I might face?

Your career benefits from the same strategic planning; the tactics then follow on from this.

How to avoid a dead end 

Whenever you feel tempted to jump at a career opportunity, it’s useful to:

  • Slow down.
  • Make a note of the possibilities.
  • Consider each option carefully and weigh up the pros and cons.
  • Now, choose which path you want to pursue, and the detours you’d be willing to consider if you hit a roadblock.

Here are two examples of “mistakes” our coaching clients made prior to working with us, and what you need to do to evade the same problems!

How to avoid misjudging a role

A few years ago Elevate Talent supported an amazing client who had moved from a big corporation to a small company where she became office manager. The new company was experiencing compliance issues. Our client decided it could be an interesting project for her to get involved in, but failed to realise how much legal documentation there was to contend with, or how much time she would need to invest in writing process documents, something she didn’t enjoy and that wasn’t her forte.  

In hindsight, she realised she could have avoided the tedious task if she had spent more time planning. Without strategic thinking, we often venture down  the wrong career path.

How to select the right career opportunity

If you don’t consider the big picture when seeking promotion, then you might end up with less opportunity over time. One of our clients wanted to stay at the same professional level but move to a new department to gain fresh insight. Instead, she was promoted. Thinking she couldn’t turn this down, she readily accepted. However, it was a small department with few employees, which meant less scope for future promotion. 

Over time, she realised her mistake and was happy to step down a grade to move to another area, but the organisation refused  because they feared she would get bored or start to look for work elsewhere. If this client had spent more time contemplating her initial career move, she’d have been more likely to be in a role she enjoyed, and one that gave her opportunity to grow.

Strategic planning is a form of due diligence. It’s not about staring at a blank piece of paper or relying solely on the information that’s already in your head. 

Three ways to strategically plan your career

    1) Plan by contrast: get clear on what you don’t want

Sometimes it’s really difficult to know exactly what you want, but if you spend time becoming clear on what you know you definitely don’t want, you can eliminate specific paths. When you know what you don’t want, there’s more scope to identify what you do want. Elevate Talent specialises in helping you focus, plan and implement the tactics that will get you to the right place in your career.

    2) Explore the big picture in full

Once you have an idea of which departments you might enjoy working in, research exactly what those roles entail (or could entail). If you love a client-facing role, you need to know if that’s part of the job you’re going for; if it turns out to be more about number crunching or sitting behind a desk all day, you’ll be unfulfilled. Likewise, if you are invited to deliver presentations, does that mean you need to carry out all the research, or just show up and shine? Talk to people who have worked in those roles and learn from their experience.

    3) Be open-minded and ask for what you want

When you know your personal strengths and weaknesses (see this blog), you become a magnet for suitable opportunities. Some organisations will consider creating bespoke roles for people because they see how much value they could bring to the table. You can also negotiate (see this blog), in order to reallocate tasks within your desired role. For example, if you specialise in graphics but not web design, there might be scope to split the role. You can still apply for jobs even if you don’t 100% fit the specification. 

Look at it this way, if you were able to solve 60% of a company’s problems on an ongoing basis at an advanced level, they’d be better off hiring you than someone who could solve them all but only at a basic level (a sticking-plaster solution).

How to make the most of your time

Strategic planning doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You might choose to:

  • Mind map.
  • Talk to colleagues or network with people in similar roles.
  • Map out your own vision.
  • Troubleshoot potential problems before they arise; for example, if you want option B but it’s not available at the right time, what would be your next move?

As human beings, we are strongly motivated to move away from pain and towards pleasure. At least 20% of your time should be spent planning so that you don’t spend the other 80% of your working life trying to troubleshoot areas you don’t enjoy (or wasting time by working on the wrong thing at the wrong time).

At the end of a recent Elevate Talent webinar exploring the importance of strategy over tactics, we asked our respondents if they would spend more time working on their career rather than just in it: 95% said yes. This shows us that strategy (the big picture), was frequently overlooked before.

Your next steps

What will you do differently when it comes to your career?

I hope this article has given you some great insights into why you need to pause and plan before you roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. It will save you time in the long run. As French chemist Louis Pasteur once said, “Fortune favours the prepared mind.”

Be patient; planning ahead helps you reap rewards and prevent future disappointment.

We’d love to support you to become crystal clear on what you want, and to advance in your career in a way that brings you personal and professional fulfilment. Get in touch if you’d love to know more about our bespoke online programmes and how they can help you.

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