You’ve heard the adage that failing to plan is planning to fail. You also know that a good plan is one that allows for flexibility and changing priorities, deadlines, and budgets. You probably work off of a multitude of project plans in your job and at home. But do you have a project plan for your career? If not, you should start thinking about it.
Your job is to be the CEO of your own career, and to market your product—YOU—effectively. In order to do that, you need a strategy. Just winging it won’t work. Relying on your boss to guide your career? That’s so 1960s. As with any other project plan, determine what the end goal is, and work back from there.
Any effective project plan communicates project deliverables, timing, and schedules. When creating a project plan, the project manager (that’s you) is forced to think through potential risks and hang-ups that could occur during the project. These early considerations can prevent future issues from affecting the overall success of the project, or at times, cause a project to fail.
A project plan usually begins with a scope statement. This documents what the project will produce and what it won’t. Maybe you don’t need a scope document specifically, but you do need to think about your career in terms of an ongoing project, which is chopped up into manageable bites. To that end, what is the purpose of the current “bite”? Is it to get a new position with a competitor? To change fields? To make a lateral move? If, for example, your short-term goal is to get a promotion, what are the elements that should be included and excluded from that scope?
The next step is to conduct research. Research companies, hiring managers, industries. Understand trends. Make forecasts. The research phase is driven by the scope. If your goal is to make a move to a competitor, then your research needs to be done on the competitive market and how your current organization stacks up. You will also want to identify trends in the industry so that you can make assumptions about its future, and what kinds of skills will be needed as the industry evolves.
Once you’ve conducted your research, it’s time to draft your tactical plan. Tactics are specific actions that move you closer to your end goal. So a tactic could be to attend live networking events and rewrite your resume. After you’ve sketched out your tactical plan and deliverables, create a project schedule. “Attend one networking event by X date.” “Final revision of resume completed by Y date.” This will help keep you to a timeline for achieving those deliverables.
The bottom line
Any project plan requires continuous monitoring and revision. If the specific tactics aren’t effective and seem not to be working, go back and reevaluate. Your career is serious business, and you should manage it as such!