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Candidate Help & Advice

Did the Dog Eat Your Career Plans?

Messy Career Plan photo from ShutterstockThe 2008 economic downturn had far-reaching effects on employers, the recruiting industry, and individual workers. Did it have a negative effect on your career? If so, have you recovered from it?

I’m guessing that, like 95% of respirating humans, you had no career plan before the 2008 recession. I’m guessing that, six years later, you still don’t have one.

Most people don’t suffer from having a bad career plan. They suffer from (a) not acting on their plan, (b) acting ineffectively on their plan, or (c) having no plan at all. This article addresses these items, with an emphasis on the last one. Consider this:

 Failing to plan is planning to fail.

We’ve all heard this maxim before. It applies as well to your career as it does to building a fence (which I recently did) or completing a work assignment. While it would be easy to negate the literal assertion, it is difficult to argue with the general sentiment that lack of planning tends to produce poor results.

Every day I see resumes of people who have had two or more short term job tenures during the past few years. I see resumes that indicate the person has taken a step back in title or responsibilities. I see resumes that have notable gaps in employment. These past situations are bad enough. But, additionally, these negatives also carry forward in that they can (but not always) reduce people’s marketability and raise reasonable concerns.

All of these situational shortcomings can be reduced by developing and enacting a career plan that addresses such challenges and leverages your strengths. As I mention in Chapter 3 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!),

Defining a clear career direction and setting specific occupational goals are critical actions that are high priorities for top performers. They provide the beacon that directs actions and choices.

While this is by no means a career plan, here are a few steps you can take to get started in the right direction:

  1. Clearly define where you want to be in five or ten years. (Marketing VP with a $50MM+ consumer goods company earning over $150,000 annually, etc.) Then, define the next reasonable step you can take to move you closer to that goal. (Obtain a promotion in my current company from Manager to Director by 3/1/15 earning over $110,000 annually, etc.)
  2. Print your short and long term goals in large type on a piece of paper and tape it to the front of your refrigerator, so you are constantly reminded of it.
  3. Create a list of actions you can take that are likely to move you closer to your short-term goal, such as volunteering to assist with work outside your normal duties, updating and upgrading your resume to better present your qualifications for the next position you are targeting, signing up for training to make yourself a better candidate for the type of job you would like next, etc.
  4. Start taking action! The greatest plan in the world is worthless unless you take specific actions and build momentum toward your goals.

The past is gone. Don’t beat yourself up. If you took a step back during the last recession or since then, you have time to move back up. If you don’t feel you can accomplish your goals without some outside help, seek out a capable career coach who has already helped hundreds of people map out their unique career plans.

I sincerely want you to succeed. And I know you have the capacity to accomplish more and to be rewarded for your increased contributions. You can do it. Get started now, not tomorrow!