Get To Know Your Future Self

I get nervous before every job interview. Most of us do whatever we can to avoid getting in the situation of having a job interview. That generally means avoiding career planning as well. The messy truth is that we put off uncomfortable activities. I have put together a simple step by step plan that can help you make working on your career a positive experience. We all need some help with learning and growing. Your career is no different.

We are developing your career understanding by creating a plan. This plan is for increasing your personal capabilities to make your career goals happen. To create a truly effective plan, you need to pick a mentor to work with. This mentor can be a wife, boyfriend, mother, co-worker, or boss. The mentor you choose needs to work with you on creating your plan. It is helpful, but not mandatory for your mentor to be in the same career path. You need your mentor to be slightly senior to you skill wise, and be available over the next 3 to 12 months to work with you. I have practiced different forms of these steps below over the years at many companies and situations. As a result, I have a list of ten mentors that I ask for advice and council. You just need one.

Let’s dig into who you are and what you want to develop into. Follow the steps below to get to know your future self.

Create a long term career goal

  • We need to figure out what do you want to be doing in three years. Your goal need to be attainable, but a stretch to accomplish. It can be a skill like software development, managing people, or leading organizational change. Or it can be a specific role like Engineering VP, Senior Project Manager, or OpenStack open source developer.
  • What skills do you excel at? What skills do you fall short? As you are reviewing your skills, you may find things that must be fixed immediately, others can be areas to be developed over time, and still others you can ignore. Are any of the areas you need to improve on can be classified as character flaws? For example, if you have a habit of lying to your co-workers, that is a problem that must be fixed quickly. Your character is the core of your working career. If you have some software development skills to improve and you are a software developer, then you need to improve this skill over time as your technical skills are important to your position. If you are not very good at following up on the details of a large plan, you can augment your team to fill the skill gap. You can ignore the flaw, because you can correct the gap with your team.
  • You should now have a long term career goal and short list of attributes labeled good, improve, and ignore.

We have a rough career strategy at this point and a mentor to lean on. You know what you want your future you to be. Congratulations, most people do not get this far.

Company long term goals

  • Before we jump into your career development steps, you need to understand your organization business objectives. Where is your organization going to be over the few years? What is the business strategy to get there? If you are not sure or do not know, then you need to figure it out.
  • Ask your mentor for help. Aligning your goals with your organization is critical to figuring out where and how you fit.

Your short term goals

  • Next, by brainstorming with your mentor, we create a few one year goals. These should be steps towards accomplishing your long term goal of what you want to be doing in three years. Utilize the goal attributes of specific measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria

Your activities to complete goals

  • We will need to create a plan for accomplishing each goal. You will learn more from mistakes and failures while doing what you are learning rather than reading or watching. So I would lean heavily on activities that get you directly involved in doing something productive. Document what resources you need Include some thoughtful details on how you can be successful. Come up with alternatives if you have them. For example, with a 1 year goal learning multi-threaded python software development, aligns with company objective of 99.999% production uptime, then document (3) multi-month activities, each with a timeline, that will get you to a good proficiency level within a year. Taking a month long university python development extension course, working with python test driven development tutorials, and working on an open source python project feature would be good activities.

Socialize

  • Now you have a thought out plan that you have co-developed with your mentor. It is time to socialize the plan with your manager. Make adjustments depending on your manager’s feedback. Be thoughtful on what your manager is telling you. Does your manager understand and support your career goals? It shouldn’t be too different that what you expected. If there are large differences between your goals and your manager’s expectations for you, then you need to double check with your mentor if you are being realistic with your goals. If you can not reconcile your goals with your organization, then you need to start thinking about a transfer. Talk it over with your mentor. Reach out to your Human Resources department to start looking for where your career job opportunities are. Take a look at linkedin jobs https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view-all. It is likely that a job opening already exists for the career you’re aiming for. Before you make any job changes, talk to a few hiring managers. Ask them questions before you decide to make a change. You may find that the grass isn’t greener over there.

Implement

  • After you have fine tuned your career plan, it is time to make it happen. Pick the easiest goal off the plan and start working with your mentor and manager to accomplish your dreams.

Communicate

  • Have regular meetings with your mentor and manager. Gauge your progress against what you expected. Make adjustments in your plans as necessary. Keep your eye on your long term career goal.

As you get about halfway through the year, review your career plans. Make adjustments. Start planning your next year of short term goals.

Extra Credit

  • Your resume is very similar to a career plan. A resume is all about what you have done, but it tells the story of your career. If you understand your career goal, then you should be able to glance at your resume to know if you are on track to success. Having your resume up to date is a great confidence builder. Nothing says you are ready for the future like a ready resume.

Also published on Medium.