Career Management: How to Define Your Career Aspirations

career-managementAre you at the career level that you would like to be? If not, do you know how to get there? Many business professionals know where they want to go, but all too often struggle with how to implement a solid plan to reach their career goals. Career management is essential.

It is important to treat your career with care as you would any asset. The dictionary defines an asset as an item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies.

Surely you view your home and your investments as having value and take steps to ensure that they are kept in good shape. You should do the same with your career:it needs to be nurtured constantly. When you take care of your career, it will allow you to make better long-term career choices.

To nurture your career, you need the following elements:

  • Fulfillment
  • Feel challenged (in a positive way)
  • Stay marketable

There are several ways you can do this. You can beef up your skill set, continuously educate yourself about your position and industry, and be open to new ways of doing things.

Career management involves having a strategic career plan. A strategic career plan can be defined as a map to plan where you want to be in the future. It will also help you determine what steps you need to get there.

How can you determine and define your strategic career plan? There are three important factors:

  1. Define your career aspirations
  2. Build your personal brand
  3. Develop a plan

This article, the first of a series, will focus on the first factor.

Define your career aspirations. The first step is to envision where you want to be in the professional world in one year, in three years, and in five years. Start by thinking big picture and imagine where you want to be in five years, and then work backwards. Grab a notebook and journal down your thoughts.

At this stage, the idea is to get your mind envisioning the future. It’s OK if you have different ideas about your professional future. Write them all down and then you can determine which ones will give you the three elements we talked about above that are necessary to nurture your career.

Don’t worry about being too structured at this point. We will formalize your strategic plan later on. If you try to formalize your plan too soon in the process, it can stifle your creativity. Here are a few questions to help you journal about this exercise:

  1. Who are you? This can include a self-assessment and also asking others for input. For example, think about your values, passion, and interests. What is your personality type? What experience and education do you have?
  2. Where are you going? What are your long-term career goals? Define what kind of lifestyle you want and how much it will cost. Visualize what your ideal work day would entail, including ideal coworkers and boss.
  3. How will you get there? What strengths and talents do you have to get you to the next level in your career? Do you need any extra education or experience? A great way to find out is by conducting informational interviews with those who are in the long-term position that you want. Determine how you will expand your network. Other questions could be:

What critical roles do you need over the next 1-5 years and are they available at your current organization? Is the current organization the right fit for your career goals? Who can provide you with support and accountability? Are there any blocks to your success?

When journaling about these factors and dreaming about the future, be honest with yourself. Don’t try to fit yourself into something that isn’t going to work for you. Too many business professionals try to make a career path work that isn’t right for them. This is one reason why so many business professionals are discontent at their positions. According to Gallup studies, only 32% of employees feel engaged, or enthusiastic, about their jobs.

If you are in the other 68% that don’t feel engaged at work, don’t despair. Schedule time this week to journal about the things we have discussed in this article, and then be ready for the next article in this series.

If you need help defining your strategic career plan, contact us for a free 20-minute consultation today!