Career Planning – 10 Fundamentals
Introduction – What is Career Planning?
Career planning can be as simple as writing down a number of steps that will help get you from A to B. In other words, a plan that will get you from where you are, to where you want to go. Bottom line is, making a plan will contribute towards achieving your career ambitions. Some of the key issues you will need to consider in your plan are as follows. The following ten pointers are an excellent starting point for career planning. The principals can apply to either situations of looking for employment or starting a business (e.g. working freelance).
1 – Know yourself
2 – Know your product/service
3 – Personal branding
4 – Key skills/attributes/characteristics
5 – Effective communications
6 – Building rapport
7 – Understanding your market
8 – Targeting your market
9 – Aim for greatness
10 – Take Action
1 – Knowing yourself
Getting to know yourself is a fascinating subject and one of the most important aspects or forging a
successful career or business. The following information is ‘tip of the iceberg’ stuff but should
definitely be enough to get you thinking. It poses some questions to you and will help to guide you in getting to know yourself better, although it will be a work in progress, and something that you will work on throughout your career. Knowing yourself is crucial whether you are looking for a job,
starting a business, to change career or entering into education
How You Feel
What do you generally feel like? Example: Do you have strong self-belief? Do you have a positive
outlook? Other questions you may need to ask yourself include: What do I want? How hard I am
prepared to work for it? What areas do I need to improve upon in order to get what I want? What are my motivations e.g. what is driving me? What is my vision e.g. what do you want to achieve? What are my confidence levels like?
Confidence (the elephant in the room) – What Is It
Confidence seems to be a common barrier to persons progressing their careers. It seems to be a complex topic for some who perceive it to be something one is born with, or the sole preserve of the gifted. But the good news is – it’s neither. Confidence is much to do with attitude, and mindset, and is action based more so than feelings based. And like many of the other skills needed for career progression, it can be learned. An explanation of what confidence is, and why it can be important, can normally set you on the road to developing your confidence levels. There are many definitions of confidence in various texts. But the one I found easiest to understand was went like this:-
“Confidence helps us move towards a goal or outcome we would like to achieve”.
Yes it’s that simple, and this definition alone should help raise your confidence levels. Why? Because you have already “moved towards many goals and achievements”. And you may not realise it, but it was your confidence that helped you move towards those achievements. In
other words, you would not be were you are today if you didn’t have confidence.
Some Facts about Confidence
Everyone has confidence, otherwise they would not have progressed through life. Almost every day we are faced with new challenges or things to do, and in many situations, they require an element of confidence to move forward. Confidence is the driving force that enables you to do whatever it is you choose to do. As mentioned above in the definition of confidence, your confidence has helped you move towards the many goals and outcomes you wanted to achieve.
Confidence can be Acquired and Learned
There is no such thing as a confidence gene. Confidence is not the preserve of the lucky or gifted. It can be learned and acquired. Whatever our predisposition or personality type, everyone has the ability to develop their confidence. Confidence Is More about Actions than Feelings Confidence is more about actions than feelings. Many people think that they have to “feel” confident before they can attempt something, but building your confidence is more about taking the physical actions that are needed to move towards your goal or outcome. If you wait for the “feeling” of confidence to happen it may never come about. Foe example; if you were asked to describe someone who is confident you would probably use words like, posture, attitude, smiling, enthusiastic, pep in the step, upright, chest out etc. These are all physical characteristics which can be copied so you start to ‘look’ confident. And once you start to adapt the physical characteristics its amazing how your attitude changes and you start to believe and feel confident so your mantra should be; take action – move forward – and become confident.
Confidence is Situational
Confidence is situational and is only required in certain situations. In other words, you don’t have to go around feeling confident every day; you only need to summon up your confidence for the situation required. There is a misconception that confidence is a “feeling” that should be with us all the time. This is not the case and can be a barrier to developing confidence as one may think “I’m just not getting it”.
Competence Equals Confidence
Competence equals confidence. In other words, increasing your competency levels by developing knowledge or skills, will automatically lead to you becoming more confident.
Your Mindset Plays a Role
Your mindset, or as some may describe it as your attitude, can also play a vital role in developing your confidence. It’s important that your mindset and attitude is positive and you believe in your ability to move towards your goal. If your mindset is negative it can distract you from the task at hand and effect your actions.
Knowledge Plays a Role
Knowledge can play a big role in building ones confidence. As mentioned earlier, confidence is situational and if we don’t have knowledge about the situation we are moving towards, then it’s only fair to say we are not going to feel confident. Building your knowledge about what lays ahead will help conquer the fear of the unknown and automatically builds your confidence.
What is your personality like? The industry you are in is very people facing, in other words you will be dealing with the public on a regular basis. You will need to display a personality that is: upbeat,
friendly, enthusiastic, helpful, knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile. If you are not this type of person don’t worry, it is possible to adopt your personality for certain situations. It requires a bit of practice and belief in your ability to succeed.
Are you a resilient type? Resilience is something else that will need to become part of your character. Resilience is the inner strength you will need to keep you going. It is the ability to bounce back when things don’t work out as you expected. It is present in all those who are great achievers. It is something you develop over time and comes from your motivations, your willpower and your determination to succeed. Remember, everyone makes mistakes and things don’t always work out as you expect, however, it’s those that learn from the mistakes and bounce back quickly, that are more likely to succeed. This is resilience
Footnote on knowing yourself:- The following 10 characteristics are present in those who are more
likely to achieve
• A positive mindset
• A strong belief in their ability to achieve
• Upbeat about their future,
• Prepared to take action,
• Develop the confidence needed to move forward
• Learn from their mistakes and move forward quickly
• Are resilient and don’t give up easily
• Work hard to become great at what they do
• Live in the future and don’t dwell on the past
• Live from imagination and use it to inspire
2 – Know your product or service
Knowing your product or service is vital. In other words, what are you selling or offering to someone else. If it’s a product or service, how well do you know it, do you have excellent knowledge of it, what are the benefits of it, if your customer avails of this product or service, how is it going to make a difference in their life? What problem will it solve for them or how will it make them feel better. Or, if it’s ‘yourself’ you are trying to sell, e.g. to an employer, you will probably have to ask yourself the same questions. In other words, why should an employer choose you over someone else, what benefits can you bring to their company. (the next topic on personal branding should help you with this)
3 – Personal Branding
Personal branding is very much about branding yourself as a product. It’s a different way to thinking of “why would someone want to employ me or why someone would want to purchase my service or product. Look at it this way. When you go shopping and you are looking for a new mobile phone or laptop you will look at all the specifications and what the brand is. Well this is the way you need to think of yourself if you are looking for a job or want to start a small freelance business. What kind of a product or brand am I? What kind of a product or brand do I want to be? Why should someone pick me or buy my services? Creating a personal brand is very much about the way you want others to perceive you, e.g. do you want to be seen as a professional who is good at what they do. Do you want an employer to think “this is the person for me”? If this is what you want to be, then it is within your control to create this brand. And a lot of it is down to your communications. In other words, the way you walk, talk, look, listen and interact with your
target audience. Example
• Do you dress appropriately Are you presented professionally
• Are you confident in your demeanor, body language and verbal communication?
• Are you good at listening to others? (a vital part of communications and building rapport)
• Is your presence on the internet professional and current e.g. Facebook, Website, Twitter, Linkedin
• Are your qualifications professional? Do you display them in your communications?
• Is your communications by email, text, post, leaflets and business cards all professional?
• And finally, do you walk the walk. In other words are you good at what you do?
Remember; almost everything you do creates your personal brand. You are the brand. So think about the type of brand you want to create; and don’t forget, place a value on that product/brand
4 – Your Skills & Attributes
The Skills and Attributes needed to succeed will include:
Ability to build rapport – Communication skills – Sales skills – Marketing knowledge – Planning &
organizational skills – Presentation skills – Time management skills
(Building rapport and effective communication skills are vital)
5 – Effective Communication Skills
Effective communication skills are crucial on two fronts. One, they will play a large part in your
interactions with clients, customers, work colleagues and business acquaintances. And two, they will be key in developing your personal brand. Many people think that communication skills is about being able to talk a lot or having the “gift of the gab”. This is no longer true. While it is important to be able to articulate yourself and provide solutions and answers for your client, the skill of listening is now one of the most important communication skills in providing a satisfactory service for your clients (and employers). Also, how you dress and present yourself sends a message to employers and clients, and is thus termed as communication. As is your posture, you’re facial expressions, your tone and pace of voice, your emails and your presence on social media platforms. So – all your communications need to be in sync with the type of brand you want to create
6- Building Rapport
Building rapport is about relationship building. It also means been in sync with your customers, (or
employers, if you are looking for a job). You build rapport by understanding the other person’s needs and then by responding to these needs. Building rapport is much about listening and identifying as opposed to assuming that you understand what the needs or wants are. In other words, trying to ‘hard sell’ a product or service is not recommended if you want to build long term relationships. People are much more likely to come back to you if they buy something because they wanted it and not because you told them they needed it. So it is vital that you listen to them and understand their needs. Remember the communication skill of listening when trying to build rapport.
7- Understand Your Target Market
Understanding you target market is key to directing your energies and efforts. In other words, is there a particular age demographic, or gender, or group you want to target? Do they have particular interests? Do you know the latest trends they might be interested in? If you are looking for employment the principals are the same e.g. is there a particular employer or sector you want to work for/in? What are the requirements or skills needed? Have you done your research on them? Is your CV tailored to the specific company or position?
8 – Know How to Target Your Market
Once you have identified your target market how do you propose to go about targeting them (and
remember the principals are the same whether working freelance or seeking employment) so how you propose to go about targeting them. But don’t forget, when starting out as a freelance, word of mouth will be your number one marketing tool. Vista print seem to be one of the cheapest and most popular starting points for business cards and business letter heads stationary Why You e.g. why should anyone pick you. What is different or compelling about you V’s someone else. What do you have to offer? What is different about you?
9 – Aim for Greatness
One of the best strategies to try and ensure success in your career is to aim for greatness. Those who
aim for greatness are more likely to get noticed. Many experts agree that ‘mediocre’ no longer cuts it and those who achieve are those who want to be the best at what they do. Greatness requires a
commitment to constant improvement and modeling yourself on best practice. If you go searching on the internet you will find realms of information and many definitions of what greatness is, but here are eight of the pointers that are mentioned by many of the experts
• Greatness comes from within
• It requires excellent knowledge
• It will need many hours of practice
• It requires a positive thought process
• It needs a vision based on best practice
• It requires a mindset of focus and self belief
• It requires constant improvement of skills and knowledge
• It will need continual investment in yourself, product or service
10 – Take Action
A plan without action is just a plan. Its stuff on paper that means nothing unless you take action.
Nothing in life is ever achieved without action. Think about it; what have you ever achieved without taking action? What actions can you start taking to lead you towards a successful career? Take it a step at a time but make sure you start taking some form of action.
And finally – don’t forget. Throughout your career you will be either performing or selling. It’s the
closet you will ever get to a career in acting. And those who aim for greatness – get the Oscars