Creating a Career Management Plan

Oftentimes we face challenges at work that later become some of our defining moments.  We're assigned a tough project, impossible deadlines, and goals that stretch our abilities.

Outside of the workplace, there are similar challenges.  Trips to the emergency room, the addition of a new family member; these events often mirror what happens at work.  In fact, throughout their careers employees are forced to strike a balance between work and family life.  Inevitably, career management and work / life balance are important for both physical health as well as the relationship with family.

Managing Career and Family

So just how is it possible to juggle all of the responsibilities associated with careers or families?  This can be done by keeping things in perspective, remembering what is truly important, and working as efficiently as possible.

The first step in managing a career is to take charge of it.  Anyone floating through their career like a rudderless ship will only be by good fortune getting everything they want at work.  It's important to take control of one's destiny and map out a course.

Planning a Career

Some people might think it's ridiculous to create a detailed career plan when so much of their success depends on factors beyond their control.  But we're not advocating writing it down once, and sticking to that plan no matter what happens.  This process includes visioning where you want to be, and what you want to do.  That document, or mindset, has to evolve and change as circumstances change.  This is actively managing a career, and that is not a one-time event.

The process starts by first looking inward and asking some questions.  Then assess basic skills to determine strengths and weaknesses at work.  Take an aptitude test if help is needed; figure out what the ideal job is like.

Assessing Skills

When assessing skills, there will be some tough decisions.  For example, someone may be very good with numbers, and remembering the details behind those numbers.  The problem is this same person might hate keeping track of all those details.  Fortunately, they may have also been given some strategic assignments.   If that's true, they can decide which of the roads they want to travel.  They can decide what they really like to do, versus the skills they've learned.

Finding the Ideal Job

The next step is to evaluate past experiences against the ideal job.  Take a close look at the skills acquired over time and those needed to move ahead.  One way to do this is to prepare a resume, and then find the ideal job posting or two.  Read the requirements of those jobs to get a sense of the skills and experience required, then look back at the resume.  Being as objective as possible, make a list of the experience and skills needed to be considered a viable candidate.

Once these assessments are completed, it's time to create a career management plan to help get there.  Itemize the skills and experience gaps, and figure out how to add them to your portfolio.  Once again, there are several choices to accomplish this task:

  • Look for, or accept, assignments that help to close any skill or experience gap.  Talk to your manager and explain the interest in a certain assignment or opportunity.  A good manager will help, and be on the look-out for opportunities if they know your feelings ahead of time.  But be prepared to work harder if this assignment is added to an existing workload.
  • Look outside of work for the experience.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with volunteering in a community, and adding those new found skills to a resume.  In fact, it also creates a great impression on others when they see that someone is giving back to the community in which they live.
  • Sign up for career training opportunities.  These can be at work, at a community college, or even over the Internet.  It's surprising what can be found just by looking around.

To summarize, this process calls for assessing skills, finding those needed for the ideal job, and conducting a gap analysis; then mapping out a plan to acquire those same skills over time.  At this point, you've the beginnings of a career management plan.


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