The Truth about Career Planning
Disclaimer: One of my favourite things in the world is to plan stuff. I mean, I plan travel, dinner parties, outfits, budgets, Christmas (in about August), reading lists, I could go on. The upshot is, I like to plan.
Second Disclaimer: Often my plans are ignored once I have completed them. Not just ignored by those around me (my long-suffering family and friends) but ignored by me. The planning is a pleasure in itself for me. Now I have disclosed my rather odd penchant (some would graciously call it a quirk) for a plan, I also have to tell you that many plans (in my experience) don’t achieve what they set out to do.
Helmuth von Moltke noted. “No battle plan, survives contact with the enemy.” When your plan meets the real world, the real world wins.
Now, Helmuth is a German Military Strategist, I googled him (before you start thinking that I am a great student of Military History), well, I googled “plan survives contact’ to be more accurate, then I cut and paste, but I digress.
Why the hell do we keep on planning for stuff if clearly (because Helmuth says so), it is unlikely to survive when it’s rolled out in the real world. Why, the bigger question is, have I personally spent days (feels like decades) of my life in workplace planning sessions when in all reality they were never going to come off????
Despite the fact that I love to plan, I do think that there is value in them. Planning for stuff gets you focused, makes you think about what is important within a particular context and helps you sort out your priorities. In the workplace it helps the bosses articulate what they want the company to do (which is actually much better than ‘meh, do what you want’). A plan can get everyone pulling together in the same direction, which works equally for a footy team or a workplace. I’ll give you a real life example.
Its Saturday, you have a million things to do, including; doing the washing, cleaning the house, going to lunch with friends, picking up an Amazon package from the post office, go into the licence renewal office and get your licence renewed because it runs out on Sunday, go to the gym, going to the movies in the evening with your partner. The very human approach to this list of activities is to do the things that we:
- Like the most; then
- The ones that there will be a penalty for not doing; then
- Nothing; then
- Everything else when it becomes imperative that we do so.
If you’re in your early 20’s chances are most of the list will be blown off – except the social events. If you are not a planner, you will run around all day, being late to everything, missing getting your licence renewed because you didn’t know that the office closed at 11:37am. If you are a planner, you will know that you need to be at both the licence office and the post office before 11, have done the washing first (that way it will dry) and most importantly, get most everything done (even if you did do a crap job of cleaning the house). Most of us will blow off the gym, you don’t need to feel bad about that!!
My point is, the same applies to your career. You don’t need to be 100% about what the outcome of your career is, but it helps if you have a bit of a plan about it. It can focus you on what you want to do, the type of people you want to work with, what you should be applying for or how long you should stay in a role. You aren’t always going to get it right but at least if you’ve thought about it you are less likely to miss the licence renewal (analogy for missing a promotion or cool work trip) and more likely to get to the fun stuff not feeling completely overwhelmed.
It may sound as boring as bat-shit to be a planner, but I am unapologetic about it. Having a great career isn’t all about the sexy bits, it’s just as much about all of the boring, mundane and difficult stuff as it is about the reward.
Stay tuned for the how to series on career planning….. in three easy steps (just joking).