Solid Career Planning Always Comes Before Career Success

Nancy Anderson
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One of my favorite sayings is "when you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail". This simple piece of advice rings true in all of our personal and professional lives.

Are you guilty of holding on to a career that you just "fell" into because someone suggested it? When you really think about it, are you living your parents' or grandparents' dreams?

If a rewarding career is truly what you crave, isn't it time that you made the personal commitment to make the necessary plans and then walk in it?

A S.M.A.R.T career plan will challenge you to first look into the future, define your dream job and career objectives, examine any competency gaps and identify the resources you need to move forward with confidence.

To help you get started on the right track, I want to share with you five simple strategies to an effective career plan:

A) Take a peek into your career five years from now

When you challenge yourself to a five-year plan, try to be as detailed as possible - carefully describe your position, your annual salary, really experience your daily tasks and zero in on what parts of the job you love and what value you are bringing to your employer.

B) Determine whether you are in the right place now

Hold on tight to that picture of your career future that is waiting on you. Now take a hard look at where you are right now and ask yourself these questions:

-- Are you on track for steady career progression?
-- Will your current job adequately prepare and equip you for long-term career success and career happiness?
-- Have you stayed abreast of industry and technology trends that benefit you in the future?

For example, if you want to become the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a private firm then plugging away as a desktop support specialist for 10+ years would not make sense.

C) Equip yourself with new skills/strengths for long-term success

Congratulate yourself once you are clear on where you want to be. Now it's time to do an honest assessment of the key leadership skills, professional training, core competencies and job-related strengths needed for your "dream" job.

Determine whether you will need a new degree, need to add another industry certifications to your credentials, or need to pursue new projects to get the right level of related experience.

Don't wait until you are ready to make a move and then find out that you are not fully qualified, start preparing for your dream career today.

D) Get a good handle on your personal brand and professional reputation

What we think about ourselves and what others think about us play critical roles in our career advancement and professional growth. Knowing your personal brand and differentiating traits will be very instrumental in your career marketing strategies - remember, you want to build a strong reputation and to start attracting followers now.

Consider these questions:

-- What are you frequently known for among your colleagues, peers and managers?
-- What adjectives and personality traits are used when others introduce you?
-- What kind of solutions do others called upon you to solve time and time again?
-- What role do you typically play when working in a team?

E) Recruit and assemble your career advisors and mentors

No matter how hard working and dedicated you are, career success does not and will not happen in a vacuum. Having ready access to a wide network of professional mentors, professional contacts, industry leaders, personal referrals, networking groups, industry associations and much more is vital to your progression.

Recognize that reaching your career goal will take time, commitment, money, information, technology and other people - learn what you need and what it will take to effectively succeed.

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About the writer

Abby M. Locke ( is a career marketing strategist and leadership brand coach who partners with
6-figure executives and professional MBA women to help them achieve true career mastery and success through cutting-edge, career branded communications, innovative job search campaigns, and proactive career management tools.

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