Career Planning & Self-Development: Part 1

I love making plans. There’s something about figuring out what I want and how I’m going to get there that simply excites me. It’s a bit like a puzzle – if I want to get to point A, but I’m way over here at point Q, what’s the best way to close that gap?Video Game Guy 1

For me, it’s a little like playing a video game as a kid. I loved working my way through those old, pixilated games! As an adult, the sense of accomplishment when I put together a smart strategy is the grown-up version of clearing a difficult level in Super Mario Brothers.

It took me a while to realize that not everyone is wired this way.

Perhaps you’re like me and enjoy sitting down with a pen and paper and mapping out a strategy for achieving your future goals. Or, perhaps you’re not like me, and what I just described is your perfect recipe for a panic attack. Either way, when it comes to your career, a little bit of focus and planning can go a long way.

This article is the first in a two-part series where I’ll fill you in on the most important lessons I’ve learned about planning my next career move. In each article, I’ll touch on two major areas that, when all linked together, should help set you on the right path.

Who You Are

Developing yourself for career advancement means taking an honest look at who you are, how you’re wired, and what you want from a job. While this may seem like an overly-simplistic place to begin, it is surprising how many of us have never stopped to consider exactly what our “dream job” would even look like. Here are some good questions to ask yourself to help get those wheels turning:

  • Three years from now, what would I like my job title to be?
  • Do I do my best work in a team setting, or when I’m working alone?
  • Do I want to manage other people and take on the issues that come with having direct reports?
  • Do I want to work a traditional 8-5 job?
  • If I were still working with my current team one year from now, would that make me happy?

If these questions feel overwhelming to you, then you might not be sure what exactly you’re aiming for in your career. If you don’t know the kind of job that you want, how can you expect to know a good opportunity when it presents itself? Many times, one person’s perfect opportunity is another person’s terrible idea. Your dream job might be a waking nightmare for me, not because there’s anything wrong with the role itself, but simply because we are different people. Knowing your own desires and preferences is key when it comes to career development.

Get CuriousIt is alarmingly easy to get so in the routine of our day-to-day jobs that we forget the whole wide world out there filled with all sorts of professional opportunities. Even here at Leggett & Platt, it is easy for me to lose track of everything our company does. It’s a big company! All kinds of opportunities are constantly cropping up around me, but if I’m not intentional about looking up from my work and taking note, they can go unnoticed.

So how do we break out of that trap? Ask people about their jobs.

This may seem simple, but curiosity is an incredibly powerful tool. There is likely someone down the hall, or on your team whose job seems interesting to you. Ask them about it! It can be as simple as stopping by an office to chat: “You always seem to be busy with interesting work, but honestly I don’t know too much about what you do. I’d love to pick your brain sometime. Would you like to grab lunch?” And then, take them to lunch!

To be clear, I’m not saying that every “Tell me more about what it is you do!” will lead to a job opportunity. But I am saying that getting curious about the people around you can lead to some very helpful and interesting places. Networking is vital in any healthy career, so go out on a limb and start asking questions.

If you start by asking yourself some foundational questions about what you want, and then get curious about the opportunities around you, you will be taking the first steps towards setting your ideal career strategy!

Check back next week, and I’ll be talking about filling in the gaps between where you are and where you want to be, and having the courage to ask for what you want.

Happy planning!

This content is developed from our in-house class, Career Planning & Self-Development, taught by Abby DeWelt. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series next week!