Is Your Career Stuck in Park? Time to Switch Gears With a Good Career Plan

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Changing companies can be a huge decision for many people. They have worked in the same place for a few years and are comfortable with there surroundings and coworkers. They also know what to expect from their boss and the company its self. It is easy to start to feel a sense of security working for an employer you have been with for three years or more. By the two year mark you have a handle on office politics and have formed friendships with some of your coworkers. You get your three to five percent raise each year and may have received a promotion or two during your time with the company. All of this sounds great but are you were you want to be professionally? If not is career growth possible with your current employer? How long will you have to wait for your next promotion? Do your coworkers see you as someone they can respect as a boss or as a friend they can take advantage of if you reach a supervisor position? If your answers to these questions are not what you hoped they would be it is time to start thinking of taking a new direction professionally.

Working for the same company for thirty years just does not happen much anymore. Companies these days consider anyone and any office expendable. There are many people out there who have worked for the same company for twenty years and received their walking papers because the company went bankrupt or they moved their office to a new location. Many of these workers have been working the same job for the entire twenty years or more. It is easy to become complacent when you have a job you like with coworkers you get along with. Many people think about looking for work somewhere ells but because they are comfortable where they are at they never take the steps needed to further their career. A good friend of mine, Doug Luthringer, once told me, “A good CEO is hungry not full.” This is a great saying and it rings true if you want to have a successful career. You may not be a CEO but if you want career advancement you have to be hungry not full. You have to push yourself to do things like further your education, volunteer for new assignments, and be willing to move to another company if your current one does not have the opportunities you are looking for. If you keep putting off the steps you need to take to achieve your career goals you will find yourself in the same spot ten years later.

The First Step: Creating a Career Plan

The first step you need to take is to go back and look at the career goals you set for yourself before you started your current job. You then need to make any revisions if need be or if you never wrote any down it is time to do so. Before you can work to achieve your goals you have to first know what your goals are. You then need to clearly define each goal and what you have to do to complete it. If becoming a city manager is one of the goals you can define it simply by “…become a city manager…” and to complete it you write “when you are a city manager this goal is complete”. It is important to list multiple goals that take you closer and closer to your main goal. Instead of simply having “become a city manager” you may want to add a few “stepping stone goals” before that like “become office manager” and “finish your Business Degree”. As you complete each “stepping stone goal” you have a sense of achievement and get closer to reaching your main goal.

The next thing you want to do is set the date at which you want to complete each goal. It is important to set a date that is realistic. If you set a deadline that you have no chance of meeting you may feel like you have failed. When it comes to failure you have to be able to shake it off and recommit yourself. Have faith that you have the steps laid out that are going to enable you to reach your objective. If something does not go as planned simply make some revisions and add new steps that you may not have known about before. A career goal is a clearly defined objective. It takes many career goals to make up a career plan. A career goal will always have the same definition but how you get to it may change. The path you take to achieve goals is part of your career plan and it is always changing. It is important to embrace change if you want a successful career plan because what is true today may not be true tomorrow. Educational standards may change while you are working towards a goal so you will have to extend your deadline if a new class comes out that is required to reach your goal. As ready as you have to be to except change you have to stick to your deadlines as much as possible. If your goal is to complete your education in one year but you find out you need to take one more semester because of a new curriculum only postpone your deadline by one semester.

Second Step: Look for Opportunities

As you start to complete your “stepping stone goals” see if your company has any opportunities for you to advance and reach your goals faster. As you complete steps you will be more and more qualified for the kind of job you want to have. Let your company know about any new schooling or training that you have completed and see if they have any positions open that you can interview for. As you complete more goals you should become more and more over qualified for the position you currently have. See if the company has someplace where they can utilize your new skills. If they do great, you can stay where you are at.  But if they do not you will want to start looking for a new job with a company that has plenty of room for you to grow professionally. If you are ever given a job to do that is above your pay scale do it without complaining and do it good. They may be getting work done cheaper by having you do it without promoting you but you are getting valuable experience that you can take with you to your new job.

Now that you know that your current company is not a place that you can achieve your goals you have to start looking at other companies. You need to put a resume together and start applying for jobs. The wider area you perform your job search in the better chances you have of getting the job you want. If you are willing to go were the jobs are at you should not have a hard time finding a job that get you closer to your main career goal. Since you are currently employed you have leverage when it comes to negotiations. Before that though it is important that you find out what you are worth. There are various places on the web that can give you the average salary of different positions in various industries. Decide what a company will have to pay to get you to sign with them and then increase it by fifteen to twenty percent. When negotiating stick to your guns and walk away if they do not give you something close to your asking price. You gave them a buffer by adding the fifteen to twenty percent and if they do not come close to your price you have to be willing to walk away. If the first company that contacts you does not offer you enough wait until the next company offers you something better. When you change companies you are looking for a higher position than the one you have and a much bigger pay check. The biggest jump in pay someone will see in their career will be the times they changed companies. There is not reason to move companies if you are going to put yourself in the same situation. You may find that by changing companies you increased your earnings by fifty percent or more and moved into a job title that is two or three levels up from where you were at.

Final Step: Build a Good Reputation & Network

Once you start your new job it is important to give a good first impression. Do your job and do it well. Build up a good reputation for yourself from day one by being fair to subordinates and getting the job done. Show your boss that he or she made a smart decision by hiring you. The key to advancement in a company is by either making them a lot of money or making your superiors look good. If you make your company a lot of money either by increasing productivity or expanding there market you will find yourself fast tracked to hire positions within that company. The same will happen by making your bosses look good. If you make your superiors look good they will take you with them as they climb the corporate ranks. The biggest mistake you can make is becoming to friendly with those who work under you. You want to be friendly but you may have to make hard decisions or discipline them at some point. You need to keep your personal life and professional life separate if you want to have a successful career.

When you are going to do something with someone from your company make sure it is a networking opportunity. You do not want to be in the crowd that hangs out and complains about their job and their boss at the local watering hole. You want to be with those who want to see you succeed and by doing so make them look good. Yes, you are now in management and you have to start networking with your superiors. You will find yourself invited to events or dinners from time to time by your superiors and it is something you cannot turndown. You need to go to these things so you can show that your are personable and are someone who can handle any kind of business setting. By going to these functions you will be able to meet some new faces that you may only know by their pictures at the top of the company newsletter. It is important to relax a little bit but remember these people are your superiors and as friendly as they are you need to behave professionally. Take any business cards that are offered to you and return the favor by giving them yours.

You Are Ready

Now that you know the steps you have to take, it’s time to start putting them to work. Do not put it off until tomorrow you need to start working on it today or the next thing you know it will be ten years later and you are still in the same place. Start by making and defining your main career goal and then add your “stepping stone goals” that will get you closer to achieving it. Start to work on the first “stepping stone goal” and go from there. If you find that you need to change companies it may be hard but many time all people need is a fresh start where people do not know them. It can be hard to move out of your comfort zone but it is something you need to do to further your career. If you ever hit a career road block again go back to step one and start again.

Joseph M. Jones has worked in the aerospace and defense industry for about ten years now. He started out as a Microwave Technician in the United States Marines. He then started his overseas career with Raytheon on the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Range as a communications technician and later moved to their Telemetry department. He later transferred to the Eastern Test range where he worked under the 45th Space Wing as a Telemetry Technician with Raytheon. He is currently working for ITT in Asia as a Global Broadcast System technician.

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