In order to confidently plan your career path, it is important to first take some reflection time and acknowledge where you are in your career and in your life right now.
Step 1: Look at your scheduler and carve out a pocket of time just for you. Make sure you have a pen and notebook in hand along with a couple of colorful highlighters – Yes, do it
the old fashion way with pen and paper in hand. As you set the stage for this process of career reflection, take a few deep breaths to get into focus to explore your current career thoroughly.
To get an accurate sense of where you are in your career today, list in your notebook each and every task that you do within your career position right now. List all your responsibilities, list your clients or client types, list the hours that you work, list your office locations and travel time, list all the days, nights and hours that you work. Make sure that you have a total picture of your career position as it stands at this point in time.
Next to each task and responsibility etc. note down how each entry makes you feel – does it energize you or does it drain your energy? Is it a ‘good tired’ for you at the end of each day or a ‘negative tired’? Do all aspects of your career fit with your lifestyle right now? Does any aspect of your career interfere with your personal or family life to the point that it causes you stress or resentment? Are you rewarded financially for the work that you do?
Take a few more deep breaths as you move into step 2.
Step 2: Look over the list carefully and highlight every aspect of your career that you really love doing. Make a few notes or jot down an adjective or two as to why you enjoy those particular aspects of your career position right now. Perhaps these aspects bring out your creativity or allow you to feel that you are making a difference in your world etc…
Now highlight in a second color, aspects of your list that you don’t mind doing; you see these list items as necessary to be able to do the aspects of your career that you truly enjoy. These are tasks that you accept and feel neutral about.
Next go over the list again and highlight in a third color, aspects of your career position that you do not enjoy at all or do not enjoy anymore. Make a few notes as to why you do not enjoy these aspects. Perhaps certain aspects are no longer challenging for you etc. Again note your feelings or thoughts as you engage in this process. What comes up for you? – make a note of it.
As you move into Step 3, take a few more deep breaths (or decide to re-schedule Step 3 & 4 within a day or two). Do not engage in Step 3 if you are pressed for time. Step 3 as with the other steps needs your full attention.
Step 3: Is about allowing yourself to engage in the ‘Magic Wand’ exercise. So, if I had a magic wand and I waved it and granted you the career that you wanted, what would it look like? Yes, you have to let yourself imagine.
Let yourself imagine fully the career of your choice working well for you. What would that look like? Enumerate all the details. How would your career be different than the one you are in today? In this ideal career that you envision: List everything that you would like to do; imagine your office, hours of operation, ideal clients, ideal projects – describe them all. Imagine a day in this career – what would it look like? Imagine a week in this career, describe it? Who are your colleagues that you are working closely with or networking with? Are they different than the colleagues that you are connected to today?
Once you have let yourself imagine your ideal career – put it down on paper, you could even draw a visual – the visual along with the written description is very powerful. The visual reinforces what you see in your imagination.
Step 4: Now look closely at what you would have to do to make the ideal career that you have imagined a reality. How realistic is the reality of your imagined career, say over the next year or two. What would have to happen: schooling, professional development, more experience in a different setting, relocation, money? List everything that you would need or need to happen to get you to where you would like to be.
In our career as in our life, we need to be proactive if we are going to achieve or realize what we want to realize. Go for your dreams. Optimize your life with a career that will work well for you. If you think the obstacles are too great for you to get around on your own, then consider the right professional coaching. Never settle for less than you deserve. The power of the imagination can mobilize you to exciting action in the right direction for you.
“It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist