When a political candidate runs for office, say the President of the United States, that person creates an entire campaign to reach that ultimate goal. The campaign works through a series of steps including: fundraising, getting support from party elders, meeting with constituents, developing a policy team, and creating a policy platform.
Each of these steps helps the candidate to build the profile of the next president. Similarly, if you can step back from the day-to-day grind of your job, you can plan your campaign towards achieving greater career goals. And you can achieve far higher goals than you may even now consider.
The first step, and possibly the hardest, is to identify your end goal. Where would you like to see yourself ten years from now? Or, even three or five years from now?
Think as big as you would like. Then paint a vivid picture. Describe the job title, the daily responsibilities, the skills you will use, the type of decisions you will make, the type of people you would like to worth with, even the location of your office.
Next, consider where you are now, relative to your ultimate goal. What must you achieve in order to get there? Make a list of the required skills and attributes.
This list should include both what you need to know and whom you need to know. Even with the right skills, you won’t reach your goal without the right relationships.
Then, identify potential action steps. Think about how you can get the required skills both on the job and during your free time. These free time skill-building
activities can include volunteering, taking classes and taking on freelance work / side business projects. Also consider the type of activities that will enable you create the relevant professional relationships.
If you aren’t sure what steps to take, start participating in informational interviews. These interviews are more like those done by a news reporter than those done in the hiring process. Set up conversations with experts, explain what you are trying to do, and ask what resources they recommend for you.
Now that you have created a to do list, and identified possible ways to check these items off, it’s time to map potential career paths. Create a step-by-step plan for how you would work from your current position to your ultimate goal. Once you have created that first plan, go ahead and create at least two alternative pathways for getting there. You want to leave your options open.
With these potential career paths laid out, return to your current job search. Of the possibilities that you created, which path seems the best for you right now?
As you follow your path along the map you created, stop to assess your progress, to make sure you stay on target. It’s completely okay to abandon one goal should a better one arise.