Your career is like a business. It has assets and liabilities. It generates revenue and requires investment. It has customers and competition. It requires sound planning and careful execution.
Here’s the irony.
All managers and professionals use business planning models in their work. Tools like mission statements, strategic planning, SWOT analyses, and action plans are all familiar to business people.
Why, then, do so few people use these principles when planning their careers and in doing so, leave the outcome of our careers to destiny?
The alternative is to apply business practices to your own career. Here’s how:
1. Stay close to your customer.
As an employee, your customer is your employer. What you are selling (your skills) must always be relevant and useful to your employer. In effect, you must be a profit center, meaning your contribution to your employer must always exceed what you cost (your salary.) Otherwise, you are of limited value to your employer.
2. Prepare a long-term plan.
In planning your career, envision what you would like to be doing five years from now.
Then write down what skills, education, and experience you will need to attain that long-term goal. Like a business, you can influence the outcome of your career with carefully thought-out, attainable plans that are written down and reviewed regularly.
3. Maintain a competitive advantage.
Competition for jobs comes from internal sources, like co-workers, and external sources, such as outsourcing and technology. As you advance through your career, you will find that technical skills become less important and personal qualities, such as leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, become more germane.
The key is to ensure your entire range of personal and technical skills are well-developed and always relevant to your employer. That way, you will remain competitive in the workforce.
4. Seek advice from others.
Companies use lawyers, accountants, consultants, and other advisors to guide them through challenging times.
You, too, should consider using advisors: individuals who are willing to give you honest feedback and advice on your career. You will gain priceless perspectives on your leadership skills in addition to developing useful networking contacts should you decide to change jobs.
Remember—seeking advice from others is a sign of confidence, not weakness.
5. Invest wisely.
Companies have assets like equipment, technology, and buildings. They maintain these assets and upgrade as needed. They understand that well-managed assets are vital to their company’s productivity.
You should use these same investment principles when thinking about your career.
Investments should be made in building your skills portfolio, extending your network of contacts, contributing to the community (through volunteerism), and improving your overall health and wellness.
For sure, these investments require time and money. But, they will add to your overall net worth and strengthen your long-term career opportunities.
6. Be responsive to market trends.
The most successful companies respond quickly to changing market conditions and reinvent themselves to match these changes.
Unfortunately there are other companies who ignore market trends and allow their complacency (or arrogance) to rule their thinking. These companies often end up as market followers or, even worse, in bankruptcy.
Don’t let complacency creep into your career planning. Labour market demands can and do change quickly. And you must be responsive to those shifts.