(2-minute read, plus activities)
When thinking about our careers, most people focus on the wrong stuff. Day-to-day challenges, organizational irritants and shifting business climates tend to keep us 100% focused on short-term activities. Of course, this makes sense. We are paid to focus on the business. But in successfully managing your career, focusing all your energy on the day-to-day can damage your long-term goals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’ll likely have many jobs over a career. On average, college-educated professionals spend about five years in a role. That tenure fluctuates widely by demographic. 55–64-year-olds spend, on average, ten years in a position. 25-34’s spend, on average, 2.8 years in a role.
So, on average, over a 40-year career, you’ll probably leave your mark on 5-15 jobs within several organizations. This means that over time, the only consistent observer and reviewer of your performance and movement towards your long-term personal and professional goal…..is you. In other words, it won’t get done if you don’t do it.
Pausing to manage the entirety of your career path
Although it may change multiple times, establishing a long-term career goal is your starting point. From there, you can more easily develop a “personal database” that includes an articulation of your operating principles, competencies, motivations, stories, the personality traits you bring to your work and your compensation.
Repeating this exercise over time reveals trends in what motivates and excites you about work. You’ll also get clarity on what doesn’t motivate you. Aligning these observations with your current job and long-term career goals makes finding new growth opportunities far easier.
What follows are a few mechanisms to help performance-manage yourself. Consider building this into your schedule at least twice a year.
These three tools focus your thinking and make your reflection time productive.
Advanced planning makes self-assessment part of your yearly routine.
- Set a calendar reminder every six months to perform your self-review
- Plan for 60-90 minutes to complete your review
- Compare current with past reviews to identify areas for growth or advancement
- Check identified areas against your mid-term and long-term career goals to gauge if you are on track
- Identify the first step for advancing toward your next goal threshold. Is it a networking meeting, professional development opportunity, certification, or something else?
- Schedule the next step to keep the momentum going
- Actively managing your career gives you control and builds confidence. Your actions are proactive rather than reactive.
- Self-reflection allows you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses objectively.
- You create common threads within each chapter of your career. That narrative, built over time with specific examples and stories, is the basis for your value proposition to prospective employers.
- You’ll be more focused and engaged in your current role by understanding your motivators and direction.
The knowledge and insights gained from scheduled reflection time will help you advance to the next level regardless of where you are on your career path.
For those winding down a career or thinking about transitioning to a new career, this will help you leave well.