Is it time to reset your career compass?

Your career, like a good novel, should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Starting with the end in mind will give you a better chance of arriving at your destination. 

When starting out, the vision for your career can be clear and well defined, but along the way things change. You change, the market changes and it can become less obvious where you are heading. 

The key to staying on track (as with any plan) is to review your progress regularly against your goals and to make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes this can mean a small tweak, or a new focus, whereas at other times it can mean changing direction altogether.

This ‘plan, do, review’ approach can be equally effective when applied to your career as it can with professional projects and client work. 

Step 1 – Goal setting 

Although this may seem like an obvious step – we speak to many professionals at all stages of their career who have never created a game plan or end goal. 

Some practices will have a very clearly predefined career path, so some of this goal setting will be mapped out for you. Others, not so much. Either way it’s your career. Without having the end in mind, how can you measure what success looks like?  It’s easy without setting firm goals to drift along aimlessly. Don’t risk waking up one day unhappy with what you have achieved or the opportunities you have missed. 

As with any goal setting, SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) is a good place to start. 

Top Tip:  Focus on timescales in particular. Plan in specific times at least twice yearly to review your overall progress towards your longer-term career goal. Breakdown the long-term goal into lots of smaller ones with shorter term deadlines. That way you are always working towards your target but in more manageable ‘chunks’. 

Step 2 – The How  

The how can be more complex to deal with. Especially in organisations where the career path is not clearly structured. 

The key here is transparency. If you want to be a senior Manager in two years’ time you need to make sure that you communicate this. Do so either at interview stage and/or within any formal development reviews. Ask directly in these conversations what you need to do to progress to the next level, then plan for each point on the list as a ‘mini goal’. Do not assume that senior management will automatically realise that you are hungry for success. 

Where you cannot get a direct answer to these questions, or the timeline is constantly being pushed back, it could mean that you are not liaising with the right decision maker. If you can get airtime with someone else more senior, then do so. 

If you do not have regular development reviews or cannot get any specific targets set internally to move you on to the next career level, the bottom line is that you are unlikely to meet the career goals you have set yourself.  As difficult as it may be, you then have a choice. You can either stay in a role where you are frustrated with your progression or seek to join a firm where your career development needs will be met. 

Step 3 – Mentoring  

A mentor can help you to achieve your potential more quickly. The right mentor for you is someone who you admire and trust, and ideally someone who has followed a reasonably similar career path to the one that you have planned. You may have a formal mentor program within your workplace, but if not it’s a great idea to seek a mentor out for yourself. 

Mentors can: 

  • Help you learn from their mistakes and avoid making them yourself 
  • Provide a sounding board and impartial career advice 
  • Introduce you to some of their connections and contacts 
  • Let you tap into their pool of knowledge 
  • Help you to stay focused and motivated (as well as on track) 
  • Provide constructive criticism and feedback (on a more regular and informal basis than appraisals) 

Step 4 – Learning and Development  

This may sound obvious but embrace and absorb any and every opportunity you can to receive learning and development over and above the basic requirements of your role. The straightforward way to ensure that you position yourself above the competition is to always know more. Knowledge really is power, so try to see every day as an opportunity to learn. 

Take time to think about where your knowledge gaps are. What skills do you need to take you to the next level and how can you get access to that learning? 

Soft skills are vital if you wish to progress to management level and beyond. Observe the successful, more senior Managers and Partners in your practice. What skills have they got in common? 

Also consider where there are skills gaps in your practice and in the wider marketplace. Can you position yourself as an expert in a niche field where there is currently a lack of expertise? 

Be prepared to do some of this learning in your own time if necessary and think of any time (or money) spent as in investment in your future. 

Step 5 – Building a strong network  

Building a strong network of professional contacts both on and offline can do wonders for your career progression. 

In simple terms, this helps in 3 ways: 

  1. Aligning yourself with the right network not only gives you more of the right people to learn from but it also positions you by association. Remember you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. 
  1. You are more likely to get spotted by other potential employers and recruiters by having a strong on and offline network. Recommendations are powerful and having the right people to advocate for you can be transformational in terms of your career.
  1. A strong network of contacts will always help with attracting new clients for your firm. Being seen as a business winner will increase promotion prospects and make you a much more lucrative potential employee to other prospective employers in the marketplace.

Whether you’re ready to apply to jobs or if you would benefit from an expert sounding board for the next steps of your practice career, the team here at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd can help. Contact us today.

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