Season after season, we plan to lose weight, get a tan, or sport that perfect haircut – all in preparation for a summer trip to the pool or beach. We may or may not succeed with those plans. But, do we ever plan to get our careers in shape before that very last minute when desperation sets in? Rarely, if my personal and professional experience is any indication.
For now, I’ll use “career” as the current embodiment of a professional life. Most careers seem to be either overweight or underweight rather than exhibiting the Goldilocks ideal of “just right”. Are you a generalist carrying along with you the baggage of too many unfocused choices, skills, and accomplishments? Or, are you so focused in one direction, that your career is underweight in the breadth of experience that invites more interesting opportunities?
Right and wrong are not at play here, but Career Management surely is. As you sit at your workspace du jour and contemplate your immediate obligations, what about your future direction occurs to you? How will you get your career in shape to allow that future to unfold?
Well, I might suggest a career fitness plan that includes the following:
- A compelling vision of your future work and lifestyle – know and feel what you’re working toward
- An inventory of your career and life to date (experience, skills, passions, accomplishments) – so much experience and wisdom can happen outside the workplace
- Put on your sorting hat. It’s time to choose and let go. My first resumes were ridiculous one-page assortments of every skill and activity I ever imagined (professionally typeset I might add). But, who are you today? If you repack your bags for the journey forward, what must you take, and what can finally stay behind? Lose that career weight now so you can move easily toward more exciting options.
- Don’t wait for summer! Schedule a meeting with yourself once each month to weigh your accomplishments, setbacks, and options. Clarify your goals and refine your plan.
- Update your resume monthly – quarterly at a minimum. Invite that wave of fresh opportunities by being ready to dive in.
- Seek out support from mentors, peers, friends, family, or a coach. Just be aware that those who’ve known you for some time may only be able to see you from a particular lens. If you anticipate a significant transition, this is the time to seek out a neutral professional who can be open to a fresh vision of you.
There’s certainly more introspective work here than these bullets suggest, but I hope they provide an initial framework for a year-long exercise in career fitness. Please report back on what works best for you.