How are you advancing your career?

Not really thought about it yet? Going with the flow for now, but will get to it later? Trying out various ideas and opportunities to find what fits you best?

How have vague strategies and haphazard plans worked for you so far?

How to design your career: rolling the dice with purpose

Traditional careers were life-long, linear and predictable; mostly limited to one or two companies; and usually in one area or discipline and industry.

Now, you can expect numerous careers during your lifetime, using your skills in a variety of ways spanning many companies across different sectors.

It’s both more complicated and richer with opportunities, calling for your purposeful and proactive engagement if you are ambitious about what you want to achieve.

1. Map your career

However long you stay, each work experience is valuable for building up an understanding of what you enjoy doing; what are your emerging or acknowledged strengths; and how and where you want to use them for your current career and the next.

You can also start to develop a sense of your working style—how, where and when you work best—all laying the groundwork for designing your career(s) and working profile that in combination provide a useful framework to guide you.

2. Be purposeful

Being thoughtful and deliberate about the sequence of decisions you make and steps you take can be very beneficial.

The more you understand about yourself, what you enjoy and are good at, the more you can explore options that suit you.

You can make better decisions that will help you more quickly find companies, jobs, and projects that best match your different needs and desires.

These will get refined and change over time as you transition through different positions and careers.

A completely random journey through various work experiences is not going to be nearly as useful for informing your choices and taking advantage of them.

As you investigate possibilities, serendipity — leaving things to chance — IS an option and can be strategically viable if you can encourage “lucky” encounters that are more likely to generate opportunities that are relevant for you.

For example, put yourself in environments where people or organizations that you find interesting are doing business or socializing. 

3. Add inputs

Data points increase your intelligence and inform your decision-making.

Let’s say you decide to choose a marketing role or project next after listing your preferences and matching job parameters that are of interest to you.

As you get into the work, note your actual reaction to each aspect and reflect on which you might like to be present (or not) in your next position to help confirm, refine, and define your careers and their evolution.

Plus, do you want to continue in this field, perhaps in a slightly different area? What else do you want or need to learn to pursue more work in this field? What new or associated opportunities can you create for yourself?

4. Craft your career cycles

Nowadays, careers can be developed following an iterative cycle.

If you engage in this process, you can use it to optimize your choices, opportunities, and progress over time.

The simple steps are DICE: Develop, Identify, Cultivate, Expand.

It’s a logical progression to explore and then hone your options and skills.

DEVELOP: You have some ideas about skills and roles, but generally you want to explore the possibilities. List a few to try (noting basic reasons why) and off you go!

IDENTIFY: As you get more work experience, you’ll get a sense of what you enjoy, what strengths you want to focus on, and what your deal-breakers are.

CULTIVATE: Target the skills and or area(s) you like and get more involved to deepen your expertise and start honing your skills.

EXPAND: You can broaden use of your talents within the sector OR decide to start the cycle again to explore another field, applying these or new skills differently.

Don’t forget to create contingency plans that have shorter and longer-term relevance with a couple of basic ‘what if’ scenarios.

This way you are not taken by surprise and short-changed when the unexpected happens along the way – as it always does.

5. Plan proactively

In the more fluid and self-directed work environment, your career success will be determined mostly by how much effort you decide to put into making thoughtful progress.

If you keep reviewing your experiences and considering your options, strengths and skills, you can keep learning and moving onwards and upwards.

Roll your career DICE with purpose. Engage your ambition to achieve your desired success!

How do you plan your career? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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