The Internet is crowded with an annoyingly large number of articles on career development. Everyone seems to have their suggestion on how to achieve your biggest career aspirations and ultimate happiness. I realize I am adding another piece to the already full space. Independently, I will share my career development experiences, assuming what has worked for me, can also work for many of you.
The first thing to consider is that writing down your career goals will help you achieve them, and this is backed-up by research. Thus, a compilation of a simple career manifesto may serve as guidance toward the career you wish for yourself. So what is important in the career planning from my perspective?
Try to See the Bigger Picture.
Your manifesto should start with a personal central thesis for you and your career. Take some time to think of your values, skills, and when you have been most satisfied with your work and accomplishments. Think why. Think what is important to you. Remember to think broadly. Your career manifesto may have been specific as wanting to be the VP of Clinical Project Management for company XYZ. Maybe also a general description of what you want to accomplish in your career for example work for the Manufacturing, Marketing, Clinical Development groups, etc. Please remember that successful career is not always about going up the ladder. Sometimes you may consider the horizontal career move to gain expertise in a particular area. This approach may jumpstart your further advancement and promotions and is well worth considering. By moving horizontally (e.g. same level but a different type of job/function) you can learn and strengthen your professional profile. Additional experience may give you a wonderful foundation for the next career steps. Try to consider moving to a different function to broaden your understanding of the business. It is especially important to those of you who see themselves one day at the executive level. Interdisciplinary expertise is frequently the requirement for the executive and C-suit level positions at pharma and other industries. When you consider those career options, also think about the work-life balance and your personal life goals. Are you willing to relocate for the right job? What sacrifices and compromises you can take to get to your final career destination? Please trust me that at a certain seniority level, it may be extremely challenging to maintain a healthy life-work balance. It is an important point to consider when you decide on the directions of your career as they will have an overall impact on your lifestyle.
Involve Friends and Network.
Meet with your network of friends within the same industry. Choose those who know you relatively well. Having an outsider’s point of you gives you a different perspective. If you have friends or colleagues who are in more senior roles, they may help you to see different career options than you consider from your level. They can provide constructive criticism on your career goals and objectives. I found my network to be an invaluable source of great ideas.
Write Everything Down.
Start with a thesis statement and create some goals that can lead you down the path you built for yourself. You can have short (1 year) and long-term goals (5-10 years). Treat it as a working document. You can start with a big picture and revise the manifesto every once a while. If your job is starting to feel uninspiring change your declarations after considering new opportunities and looking critically at your previous decisions and career pathway you chose.
Evaluate & Implement.
So now you have your career goals. Look at your current situation and assess if you are moving in the right direction. Define the required competencies for each job (e.g. soft skills, technical skills, the level of experience). Do you need new skills? What are you doing to acquire them? You can use the technique called “pre-writing your resume.” In this exercise, you put yourself five years into the future and write your resume as you envision it, including your new title and specific job responsibilities. That technique can help you to visualize further what is ahead of you. Work with your current line manager to set up your development plans. Look into classes or certification programs. Assess if the current employer can assign a mentor to you. If you seriously think about your career you have to find additional time to learn and expand your skillset.
Sometimes, the opportunity appears out of nowhere. Try to keep an open mind about those unexpected occasions to advance your career. Always consider what materializes in front of you.
Your career is in your hands. It takes a considerable effort to develop a vision and related short-term and long-term career goals. Take it seriously, give it a lot of thought, make learning investments and talk with your friends. Make sure you are using your career manifesto and update it when you have to. Work with your line managers as they can help you in your professional growth. If you engage in the planning and taking the small step approach, in moving to the intended direction, you will eventually get closer to the career you want for yourself.