It’s interesting to me how paradoxical it sounds when people say they’re frustrated with their career progress, yet when pressed, they admit they’ve spent little time actually deeply thinking or doing anything about it.

I know, it’s hard. Often overwhelming.

It takes courage to imagine where you want to go, to examine your strengths and weaknesses and to push yourself to places and people that feel uncomfortable.

It also takes energy. Energy to have enough self control to make the time; to do the thinking; to build a plan and then to action it.

The sheer number of options we have today is overwhelming in itself. There are all those life decisions to consider….not to mention the knock-on effects to others that make career planning really quite tricky.

The thing is, if you’re feeling frustrated and you don’t start doing something differently, you’ll probably continue to be frustrated (unless you find your inner buddha somewhere).

Life is too short, in our opinion, to be frustrated …...

So here are five tips to help you get more strategic with your career …..

1.  Force yourself to put some time aside

I know, easy enough for me to say.

But really, you have to force yourself.

Block it out in your calendar.

Tell people you’re not available.

Turn technology off.

Go somewhere quiet.

Do it on a Sunday if it’s easier ….

Do it with a friend if you need accountability …..but as Nike would say, just do it….as often as you can.

2.  Start with your goals

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up someplace else”
— Yogi Berri

OK Claire - I’m here ….what do I think about ....?  Start with your goals. 

I know this can feel a bit overwhelming, particularly when someone asks you where you see yourself in five years time. So here are a few questions to help you start …....

  • What would success look like in 0.5/1/3/5/10 years time (whatever time frame feels right)? How will I know I’ve been successful?

  • If I could do anything in my wildest dreams, what would it be?

  • What really matters to me?

  • What strengths can I build on?

  • What values do I hold dear?

  • Where do I get my energy?

  • At this stage in my life, what’s important to me?

  • What are my non-negotiables?

  • What different paths could I take to end up where I’d like to be in 0.5/1/3/5/10 years time? Get creative here. Think outside the box.

  • What skills do I need?

  • How could I start?

  • Who could I speak to?

This should keep you busy thinking for a while.

3.   Seek advice and help

Talk to people. It really helps. Honest.

Seek out role models and people you admire. Research how they got to where they are. When you’ve done a decent amount of thinking, ask them some curious questions.

Make it easy and pleasurable for people to share their knowledge with you and you’ll hardly ever find anyone knocks you back.

Ask your colleagues, managers, ex bosses, friends ….build your very own Virtual Personal Advisory Board (future blog coming on this).  

Even ask your peers ….Sheryl Sandberg, the COO for Facebook, tells a story about how she would never have taken a job at Google if she hadn’t listened to her peers. They understood the tech environment much more than her seniors and mentors, and so they understood the potential of the opportunity.

I’ve got a big caveat for you here though: this doesn’t mean you outsource thinking about what you want to do next to someone else. This is your life and your work.

By all means take inputs from others, talk it through, ask them what they think you’re good at, ask for introductions and connections, etc, but DO NOT outsource the thinking and the decisions about your life. This will lead back to frustration. Believe me.

Think about working with a coach.

I would say that. I’m a coach.

But honestly, good coaches are worth their weight in gold. They can help you speed up your processing, challenge your thinking and provide you with structure and accountability.

4.  Get clear on your smallest next steps

When you take action, even the smallest action, you build forward momentum and confidence.

Just start doing something ...write something, speak to someone, apply for a role, find the simplest way to try what you’re thinking, enrol in a course, do a project, join a network.

Make it small and keep yourself accountable (maybe find an accountability buddy). Then do it all over again.

5.  Talk about where you want to go

I’ve always used this tactic of telling people what I'd like to do next or where I'd like to go, and I’m pretty sure it’s been one of the secrets of my success.

Basically I use this personally for a couple of reasons:

  1. When I say something out loud I can try it on for size. This allows me to work out whether I really do want to do this/go there, etc

  2. By saying it repeatedly, I start to believe that I can do it

  3. By saying it to people I respect, I force myself to actually do it because I don’t want to look like a loser.

The other reason for doing this is that once people know where you want to go, they can help.

So what are you waiting for ….don’t leave that frustration unexplored. Create thinking time and go find your full potential!

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash