Career Planning for the Over Scheduled and Overworked

Dana Theus
April 10, 2019

Do you have a career plan? Great. Put that one aside and write another. In today’s fast paced world our plans our becoming outdated almost as quickly as we are writing them. We know that tech advancements and changes are pushing us to work and lead in new ways, but what does that mean for career planning? It means that traditional career planning is obsolete.

The high paced rate of change means that the job market is shifting even faster than most of us can plan for.

The new career reality looks something like this:

  • Jobs you “grow out of” in a year or two
  • Job opportunities you were promised that never materialize
  • Layoffs and reorgs that hit you (or close colleagues) out of the blue
  • Business/career development strategies that used to work, now don’t

Below are the strategies you can use to weave career planning into your everyday life to better prepare for ongoing change and an unpredictable future.

Make your career search annual

Does it surprise you that the average job tenure is 3.7 years in the private sector? If you’ve been at your job for a few years, it may be time to start your next job search.

Why look for a job every year? Although no employer wants to hire someone who’s going to leave in a year, just because you look for a new job doesn’t mean you need to take one, does it? The point is not to change jobs every year, but to plan to be doing work next year that’s different from what you’re doing right now. This can take several forms, including stepping up to new challenges and opportunities next year, positioning yourself for an internal promotion or finding a dream job.

When you take on the challenge of always planning to be in a “new” job next year, your planning horizon moves closer. You’ll pay more attention to what results you can produce in the short term (and how it positions you for something new). You’ll start paying more attention to what skills and experience employers are seeking for the jobs you want to be doing next year, which helps you seek training opportunities and new experiences. It makes your networking more goal-directed and relevant to both your current job and the job you think you want next year (networking can help you focus on exactly what you do want to be doing in the future.)

You can do all these things whether you change jobs next year or not. This practice will keep you sharp and aware of what makes you competitive in the employment market, and thanks to the Internet, staying abreast of employment opportunities has never been easier!

Know what your vision of success is and share that with your boss

Putting your head down and doing a good job is always a good thing, and it used to be a decent career strategy. People who produce good results create more opportunities for themselves, right? Sure. Sometimes. But when doing the work blinds you to trends and changes that may affect your job or career, it’s not a good thing at all. It can make you complacent in your current skill set, for example, and distract you from developing new skills in your current job.

Moreover, many employers see someone who just does good work and doesn’t appear to aspire to more as someone they don’t need to invest in. You don’t want to create that impression! You want your boss to know what you’re striving for. Ideally s/he will be an advocate and help you gain the experience and training to become better at what you do and get ready for what you’ll do next.

Of course, you may or may not trust your boss with this information, so take this advice with a grain of salt. Some bosses will use it against you or think you’ve got one foot out the door. My advice in this case is (1) talk to your boss about the skills you’d like to work on that will help you do your current job better and contribute to the team and (2) get a coach to help you with the rest of it! Whichever route you choose, don’t get caught blindsided because you never spoke up about your goals.

Set aside small amounts of career development and networking time every week and every month

I understand that we don’t always have the time to be thinking ahead when work and life take up so much time as is. But I guarantee you that if you set aside 30 minutes a week to think ahead, and 1 hour a month to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going, you’ll start moving closer to your future more comfortably and quickly.

Weekly 15-minute checklist:

  • What meetings do I already have coming up this week that I can use to help me move toward my goals? (Add a career-related intention to your calendar items to remind you)
  • What one activity or conversation can I add to my week that is primarily career-related (e.g., shoot an email to an old boss to see if she will be at the conference next month and wants to meet for coffee)
  • What one new opportunity (e.g., training, job opening, industry event) can I research this week (schedule the research time on your calendar)

Here’s a monthly reflection exercise:

  • What career-related activities did I accomplish last month?
  • What did I learn?
  • Are my career intentions still solid or do I need to adjust them?
  • Next month when I do my check in, what do I want to have learned that I don’t know now?
  • Tip: add this to your calendar now: every month for 1 hour for the next 12 months
Dana Theus

Dana Theus is President & CEO of InPower Coaching, helping emerging and established leaders master change and find professional success through personal growth. Dana offers innovative leadership development and coaching programs. A prolific writer and perceptive coach, Dana has developed the InPower Leadership Development Competency Model, and she founded (a Forbes Top 100 web site for women) and to bring an InPowered voice to leadership development.


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