The first step to your career acceleration and future success is ensuring you know who is in charge. That person is you. It’s essential to remember and embrace that you are in the driver’s seat at all times. So, acceleration and the gear you choose to move is under your control.
- You decide who you work for, the roles you want, where you prefer to work, the structure you are comfortable with and the duration of your employment. This includes key components such as flexibility in location, work hours and type of role – choosing to be an individual contributor or a leader with direct reports.
- You determine how long you will remain in a certain position; how much is enough experience to have confidence that you have mastered a specific task or role – and when you feel prepared to take on a new challenge.
- You identify when you need additional learning, continuing education, additional credentials to ensure you are equipped to do a specific type of work. If you have great parents and educators who have given you guidance you will likely already know this. Don’t wait for an employer or client to tell you what you need to do the job. Take the initiative to be prepared with the education or training required to meet your goals. Look for corporate employers that provide continuing education as a benefit. Then, don’t wait for human resources or a manager to tell you how to take advantage of these opportunities. Ask and take action.
Yes, as an individual you should outline a strategic plan for your professional development and future. If you need a good reference or template, consider using Franklin Covey as a resource to help map your strategic plan. Franklin Covey even has a version for teens so they can start planning as early as 8th grade. Practical tips:
- Find a tool that works for you. It doesn’t need to be complex. Just a basic planning tool. Start with a 6-month plan, 1-year plan, 5-year plan. Then it’s important to know that once you have this outlined your plan, it will change and should be adjusted as you learn more about your interests and skills.
- Ask for input from professionals, friends and family members you trust. Present your strategic career acceleration plan to them. Ask them to provide constructive feedback on the strategy and actions that will be needed to support it. Leverage people who know you well, support you, and want to see your success. Try to focus on feedback and input from those you have your best interest in mind personally, and professionally.
- Be confident in your strategy as only you know what suits your professional interests, objectives and alignment to your goals and objectives. Stick to the plan and course correct as you encounter challenges and learn more about yourself.
- Review. Adjust. Repeat.
Identify key people in your personal and professional life who you respect and admire and those who inspire you. Ask for their insights and mentoring. Most people appreciate the opportunity to assist someone who earnestly wants to better themselves and clearly wants to be responsible for their own destiny. Let others help you. Be prepared to listen and be curious about the professional experience they have to offer, their expert insights, experiences, stories, failures and huge wins.
- Leadership mentors. Look for mentors in your social networks. These could be peers in your current friend group who are a few years ahead of you in the work world. Naturally, sports and other organized activities offer the opportunity to connect with a coach, director or group leader who has a vested interest in your success. Ask for their support in setting your future course of career acceleration into action. These connections don’t need to be overly formal. A casual but intentional approach is fine as long as it proves productive – and it’s up to you to ensure the outcome is productive by asking for help and listening. Then, take action on the insight, expertise and experiences shared.
- Know the difference between a coach and a mentor. Coaches typically provide pragmatic tips and strategies that you can immediately put into practice. In either case they want to see you do the work. Some may say there is a distinct difference between a coach or a mentor. In either case, their role is to be guide – not do the work of developing you for you.
- Meet and report back to them consistently asking for feedback being open to their feedback. Adjust your sails.
The most important component of career acceleration is YOU. Don’t wait for a manager, advisor or even a parent to give you the manual. You know your passion and should set the course ahead. Recognize your interests, abilities and what you bring to the table; the seek the opportunities that will make the most of them. Follow this and you can’t go wrong.