Where is your career headed?

Behind every successful professional is a realistic career plan.Are you ready with one? Read on to find out

By Rajshree Kukreti | Print Edition: January 25, 2007

The salary is good and so is the designation. You are confident that regular promotions will come your way. But do you have a clear idea as to where you will be five years down the line? Just flowing with the tide does not augur well, and it is time for you to create a clear career plan. Setting goals with time frames and pursuing them is the surest  way of achieving success in your career.

What does a career plan do for you? It makes you know precisely what you want to achieve and where to concentrate your efforts. Goal setting techniques are used by athletes, entrepreneurs and achievers in all fields. This not only clears the vision but also sets a pattern to be followed. Career goals, if carried out zealously, can be very motivating. The goals set should be realistic and with clear time frames. The ideal manner to set your goals is to first decide on long-term objectives and then work backwards toward short-term plans. Decide how you’ll focus your life, and then set the clear, vibrant,
compelling goals that power you to achievement.

MONEY TODAY developed a checklist that will steer you on the course to professional success.

Are you aware of your career goals?
A. Clearly
B. Somewhat
C. No
2. Can you visuali se your career five years
from now?
A. Clearly
B. Somewhat
C. No
3. Are you aware of the skills you need to
master for your career?
B. Somewhat
C. No
4. Have you taken steps to acquire the experience
needed for your career goals?
A. I am working on it
B. I am planning to
C. I never thought about it
5. Are you aware of your personal strengths
e.g. good inter-personal skills, communication
skills and how to leverage them for
career growth?
A. Clearly
B. Somewhat
C. No
6. Are you known as a specialist or expert in
your chosen field?
B. I am getting there
C. I have a long way to go
7. Are you aware of the developments taking
place in your field of work?
A. Clearly
B. Somewhat
C. No
8. Do you voluntarily participate in networking
activities with professionals in the same
industry through forums, associations,
newsletters, etc?
A.Yes, on a regular basis
B. Sometimes
C. No
9. Do you analyse your achievements and
failures on a regular basis with self and
A. Regularly
B. Sometimes
C. Hardly ever
10.Have you worked on your skills to enhance
your brand value?
A.Yes, I regularly upgrade my skills
B. I do it when I get time
C. No
11.Have you set a financial goal—the amount
you want to earn, save and invest in the
next five years?
A. Down to each paisa
B. Roughly
C.What’s that?
12.Is your day’s work systematically organised
as per a plan?
B. Manageable
C. I just race through
13.Are you acquiring any new skill e.g. net
trading,writing, counselling, to fall back
A. I am working on it
B. I am planning to
C. No
14.Are you the one approached in times of
crisis and are the dependable one at work?
B. Sometimes
C. Never
15.Are you in charge of your professional
A. Captain of the ship
B. Second officer
C. Sailor

No doubt you want to get ahead in the world; to be a mover and a shaker, rather than the moved or shaken.

You want to make it big but are not ready for the responsibilities that come along with it. Gear up fast.

Mostly Cs NOVICE
You are actually a novice when it comes to managing career.And one cannot remain a newbie for long.

Career plan for each type

Congratulations. You have a well-defined career plan ahead of you and most probably know how to go about it. But you must remember not to get complacent. It’s easier to make a plan than pursue it. It is easier to plan success than be successful.
You also need to do a regular analysis of your achievements and renew your goals frequently. When revising your goals, keep in mind the contemporary environment and stay abreast of the changing trends. Managing your career is similar to managing a company; each has its own set of stakeholders who may know something that you don’t. So, identify people other than yourself
who have a stake in your professional growth and speak to them. This would help you stay out of the “I, me, myself” trap that most career-oriented people get into and then fall by the wayside midway into their careers. Right now, you seem to have identified the path that you need to pursue and are probably following it as well. Thus, what you need to do is to keep the
m o m e n t u m going and stick to the timelines. Lastly, you must remember what Will Rogers once said, “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” So keep going and stay shining you bright stars!

Good, you seem to know that you need a plan, but you don’t belong to the top league, at least not yet. Being aware of your career needs is a good beginning but is obviously not enough to take you where you belong. Now without wasting time, you need to chalk out a plan that is realistic and is in sync with your professional goals. Look back at the way your career has
evolved so far and carry out a scenario analysis for the future. You may create three scenarios—worst case, best case and a more realistic one. Then move on to prioritise your focus areas for the next five years. Alternatively, you may work backwards by first visualising yourself as a 45-year-old at the pinnacle of your professional ladder; then create a plan for getting there and map out the details in the form of short-term goals. Whatever you choose to do and, however, you arrive at your professional goals is not as important as following them on a regular basis. So, do not procrastinate anymore and follow
your plan like your gospel. Any delay would put your career growth back by several years. And remember, what Thomas Edison once said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So good luck for the beginning.

Mostly Cs NOVICE
You need to pull up your socks. With such a laidback attitude, your professional growth stands the risk of not being sustainable. You need to get more serious about your career and make a career plan. Firstly, you should start talking to
people and begin discussing your career options. Building contacts with people specialising in your area of work will help a great deal. You must take their feedback and identify “what is it that motivates you”. Role modelling a senior colleague
or a mentor is also a good idea for getting the necessary focus. Commence working on your skills and start setting short-term goals that are both specific and realistic. Lastly, you must recall what Napoleon Hill once said: “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. The fact that you have undertaken the personality test goes to show that you are serious about your career. Now that you have honestly assessed yourself, you are in a better position to understand the pace at which your
career graph is moving. Create a fresh line to chart what you actually want and see the difference.To overcome this discrepancy between your dream and reality, just make a serious effort to follow the corrective measures.

(N.S. Rajan helped MONEY TODAY in constructing and analysing the quiz. He is Partner, Human Capital, Ernst & Young.)

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