Do you have a success plan for your career change? We’ve already talked about two of the most important ingredients for successful career change – your professional network and your ability to sustain motivation during the ups and downs. Today let’s focus on the third ingredient – how to develop your personalized career change success plan.
Do you find yourself resisting the idea of having a specific action plan for your career change? After all, what’s the point? Why should you spend time planning when there are so many unknowns? You don’t have control over things such as where and when opportunities occur, or the decisions that employers make.
One of the reasons that career changers dismiss planning too soon is that they try to use a method that doesn’t fit with their style. Reflect on your experience and what you already know is effective for you. If lists already work well for you, then use them as part of your planning process. If the thought of a long list exhausts you already, try a different approach. Use mind-maps. Use sketches. Get ideas from friends and colleagues.
The key is to create a career change success plan that is personal to you.
So how might a plan help? Here are 3 ways you can use planning to make your career change easier and more effective.
1. Use Planning to Narrow your Options for Greater Focus
One key advantage of the planning process is that it helps you to uncover the options you have.
It helps you clarify the choices that you need to make. This is especially important when things are uncertain, because uncertainty makes it more difficult to make decisions. Naturally, you worry about making the wrong decision when you have limited information. But avoiding making choices is likely to delay your progress.
One of the first steps of developing a plan is to identify your needs and wants. The criteria you use will be unique to your personal situation. For example, say you are looking for new opportunities, but you are not currently willing to relocate. This criterion will immediately narrow down your research to your chosen geographical area. On the other hand if you are open to relocating, you will develop a strategy that includes a broader search.
The process of planning helps you to see the choices you need to make. Clarifying your choices early won’t eliminate difficult decisions. But it will help you focus your efforts. If you later find that you are not getting the results you want, you can always go back and adjust your criteria.
2. Set Yourself Up for Success with A Manageable Structure
The second way that a plan can support your career change and job search is that it helps you set yourself up for success. Finding a new position requires a lot of different activities — activities that are time consuming and challenging to fit in especially if you already have a full-time job. For instance, you will want to research companies, stay in touch with and expand your network, and keep up with industry news. So how do you fit these extra activities with your work and your life?
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of all you have to do in the time you have. Feeling stressed makes it difficult to focus. Soon you’re in reactive mode just doing things as they occur to you. This leads to lower productivity and more stress. A plan can help you avoid or get out of this vicious circle.
There will always be more that you can do in the time you have.
Most of us underestimate how long it takes us to do things. It’s good to be optimistic, but if you are repeatedly not doing what you expect yourself to do, you are setting up a negative cycle.
On the other hand if you develop a plan and write it down, you already get a more realistic view of what is achievable. It’s good to have stretch goals, but are your goals realistic? Are you experiencing successes?
With a plan, you can adjust your goals as you go. You can replace repeated self-imposed “failures” with success. As human beings feeling successful is a fundamental driver. It’s good for your brain to create the conditions for success. A realistic plan can help you do this.
3. Use your Career Change Success Plan to Choose Priorities
The third benefit of a plan is that it helps you prioritize. By choosing priorities you are asking yourself which of the activities you could do are most important. You may want to do more, but if you begin with the most important things, then at least you feel as if you’re making progress.
As you work through your plan, it will be easier to order the actions you identify. Task dependencies will be more visible. For example, if your search strategy includes using social media platforms to increase your visibility, it makes sense to first do a search on your name to check the information that is already public. If you identify several professionals in your field with the same name, it will be important to think about how to differentiate yourself.
Even if your experience of planning has been negative, it’s time to reconsider if you want your career change to be easier and quicker. Nobody wants rigid systems with impossible targets. The good news is that your career change success plan doesn’t have to be like that. This is your personal plan. It’s up to you to develop a plan that builds on your preferred ways of working.
Planning doesn’t have to take a lot of time. If you take the time to create a career change success plan that is personalized for you, it will support you to be more focused, make better use of your time, and feel less stressed as you work on your career change.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 9
|Jennifer Bradley, PhD helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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