Mapping out a personal five-year career plan is a redundant approach, says Carole Brown, National President of the Career Development Association of Australia.
Brown says the labour market and technology are changing so rapidly nobody can accurately predict what job opportunities will be available in five years time.
Rather than focussing on a five-year plan, Brown recommends people should assess where they are in their career right now and attend to priority areas that will allow them to progress including training, skills and experience. She believes two years is a more realistic timeframe for planning.
“Ask yourself what motivates you – what are your values?” she says. “What’s important to you? You need to combine those elements with an honest assessment of where your skills are at.”
Christian Harper, Managing Director of Sydney career management company CareerBuilders,
agrees the biggest question people struggle with is “where do you want to be in five years time?”
“I think it’s near impossible to have a sense of that,” he says. “The bigger question is around ‘what must be in my job in order for me to be happy and successful?’ You need to have a balance between how to maintain short term focus against the longer term vision.”
Harper stresses you have to have some direction for where you want to head and make adjustments along the way to manage the ever-changing environment, otherwise “you can end up anywhere, and people frequently do”.
Both experts agree people need to invest more time on regular self-analysis and reflection in order to not only determine what motivates them, but to plan longer term.
“You need to self-assess, to seek feedback and to be open to feedback – to hear it and do something with it,” Harper says.
Harper says most middle managers he meets are focused on everyone around them and have lost sight of their own learning and development. For working mums in middle management, time is their enemy and they are “flat out at work and at home, regardless of whether they have an understanding partner or not”.
“They are not bottomless pits of giving – the batteries need to be recharged,” Harper says. “Having time out to grow in an area they really enjoy is a strong motivator, energises the spirit and makes for a more inspirational leader.”
Brown and Harper offer the following helpful advice to assist career planning:
Do a personal skills audit
What are you good at? What skills do you most enjoy? What skills do you want to develop? What training and education needs do you have?
Harper says regardless of how rapidly changing the work environment is there will always be transferable skills. Managing people is the most challenging of all and the most transferrable.
“The areas managers frequently report to us they need to get better at include the ability to influence, presentation skills, managing conflict, managing politics, motivating others, communicating difficult messages, large group presentations, strategic planning and the execution of those plans,” he says.
Build and look after your networks
Brown says networking is vital for effective career management. It enables you to gather information related to your career goals; explore the “hidden” job market; and position yourself well within your current organisation or externally when opportunities arise.
“More than 80 per cent of jobs are never advertised,” says Brown, who is also the Manager of the Centre for Career Development at the Australian National University. “A good question is ‘how strong are your networks?’ And how well do you look after them?”
Nurture your career
Harper says your career is a valuable asset that should be taken care of to ensure it is current, modern and relevant.
“Regardless of our gender or the positions we hold, we are each responsible for our personal growth and personal development,” Harper says. “That comes back to how willing we are to invest time in that reflective space – to focus on what we have control over and not on what we do not have control over.”
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