The Daily Grind Work and The World

Planning for your career, not your job

Are you planning for your career?

I am always surprised by the amount of people who don’t give much thought to their career.  They think about their job in a really transactional way.  I like my job, I hate my job.  I like/dislike my boss or I don’t get paid enough.  My question, when I am talking to folks who are letting me know what they think of their job is, SO WHAT?  I ask, should you be planning for your career, not your job?

Before you go thinking that I am a giant ass, who doesn’t have any empathy for my fellow compatriot’s circumstances, I should add a bit of context.  What I am saying by “so what?” is: what does it mean that you don’t like your boss or don’t think that you get enough pay? Are you planning for a career or a you worried about an aspect of a job?  Are these issues actually important to you or are you just focusing on them because they are currently causing you some angst?  Are you engaging in the much-loved sport of work bashing, or are your current circumstances so out of alignment with your career goals that it is a significant issue?

I have talked about my love of planning here, and the fact that I believe that it’s important for us all to have at least a sketchy idea of where we are heading.  But over and over again I hear from people who want to talk about their current job, without thinking the broader context of their planning for their career.

Questions to ask yourself when planning for your career.

Here are some typical questions I ask folks when they are talking (OK, often complaining) about their job when they should be thinking about their career:

Does your current job set you up for your next job?  If you can answer yes, then any issues that you are currently dealing with are not insurmountable.  Sometimes the means justify the end.   If you have no idea then it might be worthwhile to begin planning your career.  It need not be complex, start by jotting down a plan on a page for your future, simply ask yourself what you want.  Then ask yourself again if your current job sets you up to achieve your plan.

Are you playing the long game?  Warning: terrible tennis metaphor ahead. Just keep hitting the ball and keeping it in play.  Sometimes you are not trying to hit a winner with every decision, just trying to keep the game and your choices open. This can be a real advantage when you are unsure of your next move. The long game is about thinking about where you want to be and taking your own time to make decisions.  Keeping your options open is a great plan when no other immediate options work for you.

What does your next job look like? It’s so easy to work out what the problems are with your current workplace, and for some of us easy to convince ourselves that we are better off elsewhere. The fact of the matter, in the working world, the grass is rarely greener.  Spend some time thinking about what good looks like for you in your next job, and think twice about moving until you can find it. If you have no idea what your next or ideal job looks like, then maybe consider what you can do to fix the one you are in.  I talk here about things you can think about before leaving a workplace.

What needs to be fixed about your current role? If you got another team member, a new database or a small raise, would that fix the issues you have with your job? If these issues were fixed is your career alignment back in place like a row of ducks on a wall? If something relatively small in the scheme of things is going to ‘right’ your work world then maybe you are actually in the right place right now.  Planning for your career has to look at the bigger picture and beyond the micro issues in your job today.

What does your end game look like?  Do you want to retire early?  Do you want to own your own business?  When planning for your career it is wise to have some concept of where you want to end up.  Don’t worry, it can be relatively abstract in concept, for example:  I want to be senior enough to be included in decision-making.  Knowing what the end game looks like helps you work out if what you are doing today is  right for your tomorrow.  

There are so many different questions to ask yourself about planning for your career.  Many blogs like this one pose interesting questions, you can find some here, here and here.

A job is defined a paid position of regular employment.  A career on the other hand is defined as an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress (thank you google dictionary). Planning for your career is more than just the transactional elements of the job you are in, take the time to think about your career in the context of what you are looking for in the long term.

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