Planning a great career

I’ve been asked to speak to an organisation in early June about planning a great career. This got me thinking and asking a LOT of questions; what is a great career and how long does one last? Are we talking about the one career for our whole working life or are we talking about blocks of time where we work at the things that light us up and then move on before that light dims? How will we know if the light is starting to dim? Will we know when the time is right, what if we don’t notice the signs until it’s too late? And what about our life? Do we create a life around our career, or do we build a career around a life that is meaningful to us?

I think a great career built around a meaningful life is the only path to fulfillment, but we can’t set and forget our career plan because working in the one job or organisation our whole lives isn’t a thing, anymore. No longer do we stay at the same job, with the same people, for the life of our career that could be 50+ years. There’s one thing for sure in this time, whatever it is we do; however it is we do it, we’re going to have to adapt to change and embrace that change or have it thrust upon us. The key question and motivator to ask yourself is this; am I going to be the controller of change in my life, or will I allow someone else to control it, thus making the impending changes uncontrollable by me?

There is no one great career plan for everyone and the plan we create at the beginning of our careers is often not the one we finish with; for many of us, we have no idea where we will end up and this is because workplaces and job roles are changing at an exponential rate, we have don’t know what opportunities will become available. The eBusiness Institute says jobs are changing so rapidly that some of our oldest, traditionally safe jobs are under threat from technology and computerization over the next 20 years but let’s get real, we don’t know what jobs are going to be around in 10! The workplace of 2030 is going to be shaped very differently to today, meaning adaptability, flexibility, and resilience are key. Alvin Toffler predicted way back in 1970, the illiterate of this century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. This learning process is not confined to your professional capabilities; it is also required for learning, growing, and evolving as a human; mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Our culture has societally imprinted us to place great importance on what we do, what we achieve in our work, how much money we make, and how far up the ladder we climb. Commercial and professional success are the pinnacle if you ascribe to this imprint. People can make huge personal sacrifices to achieve their financial and career success and while there are those who are happy and wouldn’t change a thing, others are desperately unhappy and worn out; they complain about how hard they must work, how little time they have to do the things they want to do, and they talk about how stressed they are. As miserable as they are, it’s like a Badge of Honour for them because they have the house, car, holidays, and we’re taught that’s the golden egg, right? But what if the golden egg is something other than material gain? What if the golden egg is that feeling of value, pride, and satisfaction we experience when we truly enjoy what we’re doing, and we know we’re making a difference for ourselves and others? This is why it’s important to ask yourself; what is a career to you and what will make it great? Is it owning your own business, working in government, for corporates, or working in a privately owned business? Do you want to make a difference in the world, be a part of the greater good, what’s going to drive you to be persistent and consistent with the things you must do when your motivation wanes? What are your aspirations; what does a career that will contribute to your meaningful life look like?

Knowing what we want and creating a plan of action to meet those wants is not the same. Not everyone is prepared to do the work; it requires effort to embrace and embody a curious mindset, develop self-leadership qualities and plan for a fulfilling career. Building resilience takes courage because you must be prepared to fail, repeatedly, as you become increasingly adaptable and agile. Constantly ducking, weaving, and chasing a dream can be consuming and exhausting and for this reason, many people tend to sit in their comfort zone, only pushing through their fears and into growth when forced.  

Typically, as many people can, I fell into that comfort zone and live to work trap and man, for me, the burnout was real. It was emotional, mental, and physical burnout that took me years to recover from. I created better balance, I started enjoying life again and slowly, ever so slowly, I fell back into the trap. Again, I needed to step back and look at whether I was working to live or living for work. I did this three times! Finally, and thankfully, I woke up and realised I was feeding my sense of self-worth and my ideal of how people saw me as someone of value through work. That strategy didn’t serve me well and sadly, as I’ve discovered over the years, it hasn’t served a lot of my clients well, either.

When planning a great career, what things are the most important? I believe it’s balance. Knowing our values, reflecting on how fulfilled we are in all areas of life, not just work. Discovering the things that we love to do, the things we’re good at and building on those strengths. When we work to our strengths, our workdays become less pressured and we’re better able to contend with tasks we don’t enjoy in a way that doesn’t overwhelm us; we become more creative, determined, and dedicated to what we are doing with increased energy and enthusiasm. As a result, there’s less stress, less fear and we don’t get discouraged because we catch the unhappiness and anxiety before it creeps in.

Sometimes it’s not possible for us to do the things we love the most as a job; think sport, music, art, dance, all the things. We can save these things for hobbies and to do that, we need to choose a career that will provide us with the time to do the things we want. When planning your career, make sure you do this. If you don’t, a lingering resentment may form telling you there’s never time for you to do the things you truly enjoy. Work will become an ever-demanding beast and you’ll feel like you’re on the fast and constant merry-go-round of life, not knowing when it’s going to stop or how you’re going to get off.

Bearing all of this in mind, knowing your future is yours to create, how are you going to lead yourself through life and business? How can you create a life of RICHES, one where you’re grateful for all the things that are working well for you in life, builds inner satisfaction as well as material rewards and gains and how can you plan for a great career that will support this desire?

By following these key steps:

Reflection – considered, honest thought is required. Learn, understand and appreciate what things are most important to you as you gain perspective about what you want from your life and career.

Intention – look at the big picture and consider your why. What’s your purpose, vision, dream? As you commit to a course of action, consider, what are you prepared to do or give up to attain the things you most desire?

Creation – this is the container that holds the plan. What are the specific goals that need to happen? How will you know when you’ve reached them? They need a little unreachable, a touch unrealistic, and even scary. Stretch yourself, this is where you plan the steps to your great career!

Habits, behaviours, and actions can support or sabotage the best laid plans. What do you need to stop or start doing for your creation to become reality.

Effectiveness – create success markers to assess how you’re showing up, what results you’re getting, how honestly happy you are, and from that decide what needs to be tweaked, changed or adjusted.

Stories – what stories are you telling yourself and others about your intentions, creations, progress, efforts and what you’re learning along the way. Are you moving forward in alignment with your values and what you believe to be true? Rather than being worn out, pressured, stressed, fearful and discouraged, when you plan a meaningful life and build a great career to support it, you can build your stories with strong, positive emotional words to develop a robust and brave mindset.

Getting your mind in shape to build a meaningful life and plan a great career takes effort, time, and regular reassessment. You only get one shot to live your life, your way; make the effort, maintain your clarity, adapt, and adjust your plan as you go. Why? Because you’re worth it and you deserve the happiness your planning and actions will bring!

A life filled with RICHES is one where we learn to love ourselves completely and create great life choices. You can download Module 1 for free, click on the button below. For your free first module of our RICHES program, click here. If you want to work with me and learn ways to become the love of your life, head over to my booking page for a free Clarity Call.

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