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Career planning is imperative to any professional who envisions a long executive career. But career planning may feel out of reach for executives who are already busy managing teams and focused on the day-to-day. They may avoid planning altogether, or they may only envision their next step rather than the rest of their professional lives.
Executive coach Kathy Simmons emphasizes why career planning is essential to ensure a long executive career.
“You know very well that good management requires long-term strategic planning and ongoing investment to ensure success for today and into the future. This philosophy is no different when it comes to managing your career,” she said.
Still, career planning can be a daunting task. Here, we’ll talk about what you need to do to create a personalized, effective career plan.
Focus on who you are and what you offer.
When planning a long executive career, you want to consider your values and what you bring to the table that others don’t.
First, what would you hope you would accomplish if you were looking back on your life? To what field and profession do you want to give your energy? This exercise gives you a better sense of your values and how you want to spend your time.
Next, consider your personal brand. What unique attributes do you bring to your current role? What problems are you better than other executives at solving?
You can already start branding your social media and career documents, even if you are still deciding whether to apply to your next position. This way, you’ll have your documents in place when needed. Writing these documents can also give you a better sense of what you want and offer.
Understanding both the contributions you want to make and your personal brand can help you plan more specifically for your long executive career.
Identify what you want – both in the near future and the long term.
It is easy for many executives to envision their next opportunity. Promotion may be on the horizon. Or you are already searching job boards for your next position.
What’s harder is to consider goals that are further away. What are the steps you need to take to land your dream position? It’s important to start planning the steps you’ll take to win competitive positions early – usually years or even decades beforehand!
Consider your ultimate ambition; what is the most senior role you hope to hold someday?
“Where do you want to be, job-wise, a year from now? How about five years or ten years from now? Where do you ultimately want to end up, and what do you want to be doing? Map out your career goals, from the very big to the very small. You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going,” advised KP Companies.
Consider what you need to do to reach your goals.
Let’s say you have identified what you want and why. The next step is to decide if you’re progressing toward those goals.
So, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have the skills I need to advance in my career?
- Are there gaps in my education and experience for the positions I want?
- Am I branding myself with specific expertise?
You will likely need to do considerable research to answer these questions. Using LinkedIn, you can see what skills and experience professionals in your desired position have.
You can also look at job postings for the roles you want to hold in five or ten years and decide if you need to pursue new opportunities. For instance, if you need an MBA to be competitive for the role you want in 10 years, it may be time to start exploring programs now.
You also want to start developing your personal brand by setting yourself apart from your colleagues. The idea here isn’t to take on every extra opportunity or project but to develop a particular expertise.
“Be the first to volunteer for new opportunities, such as leading task forces or serving on corporate committees. Doing this well can build your skills and credibility, earning you recognition beyond the job you do every day at your desk,” suggests Hult International Business School.
At the same time, you don’t want to make yourself so specialized that you only understand a little outside your particular niche. Instead, you want to ensure you’re building your expertise broadly, widely, and deeply.
“Today’s most sought-after executive candidates are not siloed in their expertise. They tend to have both functional knowledge in a specific area and broad exposure across functions. For example, if you are a VP of Marketing collaborating closely with technology and finance, acquiring as much knowledge in those functional areas as possible will only serve to your advantage, either by promotion or when you seek new opportunities externally,” Kathy Simmons argues.
Career Planning Helps You Develop Your Long Executive Career
Career planning has three key steps. First, investigate who you are, what you want, and what you can offer. If your career doesn’t match your personal values, you’ll want to pivot so you can maintain the motivation for a long executive career.
Next comes matching your personal values to a short- and long-term strategic plan. Envisioning your ultimate goal – whether that’s joining the C-Suite or winning a CEO role – can help you direct your more immediate next steps.
Finally, determine if you’re competitive for the roles you want. If you’re not, you can start building the skills, experience, and education to get you where you want to go.
Career planning is essential because you can only see the next rung on the corporate ladder without it. You may take a wrong turn or discover that you must prepare for five rungs down the line. Positioning yourself, strategizing, and adding to your skillset will add certainty and longevity to the executive career you’re seeking.
If you’d like even more guidance in career planning, connect with one of Ivy Exec’s Career Coaches today!