Now’s the best time to execute a professional health check and make sure you’re still on course.
Stick with us on this – it’s Aussie actor (and one-time CK bulge) Travis Fimmel’s maiden voyage aboard Vikings. His enterprising Norsemen suddenly decide to check their course with a floating sundial contraption under the watchful gaze of Fimmel’s baby blues. Had they not made that valuable course correction, Fimmel wouldn’t have put boots on the ground in sunny England and slaughtered all those monks in episode two.
And so, hedonistic TV pillaging aside, even the most distant of goals need constant reassessing – especially when eyeing off a corner suite with an actual door that actually closes.
Steve Hammond, executive search specialist, and director of Kingfisher Recruitment, believes that whatever your industry, what’s essential is not only some sort of mud map of where you want your career to go but also an ability to stay on course. Because a decent progression in your professional life will require frequent reviews and tweaks as your skill set expands and you learn more about future opportunities.
Being open to a new role when it’s presented is great, but that leaves the destiny of your career path in someone else’s hands. And if you’re sitting by an iPhone waiting for a recruiter to call with the next big opportunity, you’ll be left waiting a while.
“Regular discussions with a specialist recruiter is a good idea,” says Hammond. “As is giving real thought to your annual review and engaging in an honest dialogue with your current employer about where you want to go.”
And as much as it’s a giant cliché, the question ‘where do you want to be in five years?’ is one you should have answers to.
Keep checking in quickly and often
According to Warwick Peel, CEO of Future Directors Institute and Startup Boardroom, a career plan needs serious reflection at least twice a year. Minimum. Ideally, once every quarter. And for this, there’s no better time than during July, when companies are talking EFY and re-evaluating strategies — and most employees are popping Codral and hibernating, along with any immediate career plans.
With the rest of the office set to autopilot mode, it’s a good opportunity to spin the wheels of career development. “You set aside monthly commitments on your financial plans,” says Peel. “Career plans are no different.”
Keep in mind you’re at the tiller
To continue the directional theme, considering that we spend more time, on average, at our desks than asleep, you’ll be much happier if your career progress is in your control – and not the HR departments.
“If you are leaving your career plan in the hands of HR or hiring managers from within your company, you’re beholden to what’s best for the company,” says Peel. “And that’s not necessarily what is best for you.”
Keep goals versatile
Avoid the set-and-forget approach where you create goals and leave them to collect dust on your (hopefully) metaphorical vision board. The key is in maintaining targets that are active and adaptable. A career plan should be fluid and always evolving, and not a distraction that gets in the way of kicking goals in your current role.
Keep your portfolio up to date
By updating your CV/LinkedIn/portfolio every 12 months — minimum — you can take stock of achievements. Look at the skills you’ve developed, both technical and soft, and make sure you’re moving in the right direction. Does your organization have a performance review every six to 12 months? Perfect. Instead of closing your eyes and thinking of England, use the review time to document how your career is tracking and what you’ll achieve for the remainder of the year.