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5 step guide to plan your career better

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“I see no point in having a dream company to pursue, when we live and work in such uncertain times,” says an investment banker. The very banker, before the 2008 Wall Street meltdown, saw Lehman Brothers as ‘a dream company to work’.

The vagaries of the job market in the last 10 years or so have ensured that our career graph will at best be a roller coaster ride. The days of secure job profiles with a promotion every few years are a thing of the past. With cycles of economic slowdown getting more frequent, uncertainty is the new normal in the job market.

This means that careers are as much shaped by external factors as they are by dreams and ambitions. A case in point is automation that is making job profiles redundant at a faster pace than employees and organisations can cope. Because of the challenging times, career planning has assumed a far greater importance than ever before. It’s important to have a longterm view on your career as well as multiple short-term goals. However, these goals are much beyond your ambitions about promotions, salary hikes or dream employers.

Currently, one of the biggest career stress for people is that their role might get redundant in a few years and they may not have a core competence to build their career on. The fear is they may not have a skill set which will be relevant even three to five years from now. The crux of career planning and setting career goals in the new world is keeping yourself relevant to the job market, and building your longand short-term career goals around this. Here’s how you can plan your career better.

1. Assess your current job profile
The first step to establishing career goals is setting aside time regularly to weigh your existing job profile. Just as you would reach out to a financial planner to smooth out the rough edges in your portfolio, you need to make a clear assessment of the possible challenges in your job profile. Your company may have quarterly or half-yearly reviews, but your self-evaluation should be a more frequent exercise.

2. Work on long-term career plan
If you aspire to grow into a leadership role in 4-5 years from now, have a clear view on the profile. Once you have defined the objective, understand what all is required in terms of skill set to reach your career goal. How does the CV look for the person currently holding the position? Is there a critical skill that you need to learn or do you need to acquire a management degree? Are you getting mentored enough to raise the bar for your performance? Do you need crossfunctional exposure to stake claim to the long-term goal? Build your short-term career goals around the requirements for your long-term career objective.

3. Learn and up-skill
Given the volatile job market and the constantly evolving workplace, up-skilling is critical to career planning. Careers now are all about lifelong learning. The advent of online education has made life-long learning feasible. If you are setting aside 5-6 hours every week to keep pace with the hottest skills in your domain, you are proactively mitigating the risk of becoming redundant in your job. Your ability to acquire a new skill set is also a testimony to your ability to adapt, putting you ahead of the curve in your current organisation.

4. Acquire experience
As you learn new skills, seek opportunities to apply them. Proactively look for future-centric projects in your organisation, and explore how you fit in there. For instance, most companies today are contending with digital disruption, and a host of them are creating teams to take on the challenge. Working on projects that are critical to the business can provide you the all-important edge.

5. Get guidance
Mentors are key to raising the performance bar. What can be better than having your career nurtured by the person who has been in the same role, and has the added advantage of experience? While it makes sense to look for a mentor in the person who holds the position you aspire to be in, age and experience should not define your next mentor. One of your youngest team members could be the best person to learn a new technical skill from. If your organisation has defined processes for mentoring, take full advantage of these, and fast track your career goals. While it is important to have a career plan with well-defined goals, keep room for setbacks. The best of career goals come to nought due to unforeseen circumstances. However, having a plan means that you would be better equipped to deal with any setback on the way.


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