Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Five things you can do to "enhance your career." (Day Three)

Okay. I will admit that I was officially freaking out last night. Ask anybody who knows me and they will tell you that I am a bit on the impulsive side. I am great with concepts and big picture stuff, but I generally assume that details will take care of themselves. So, when I started this started this thread a few days ago, five things sounded pretty easy. There should be five things that you can do to enhance your career. By 10:00 last night, I was in a minor panic, screaming to myself, "You idiot! You never plan anything!" That's when the Irony Police knocked on my door and served a search warrant on my weekly calendar.

Planning is for amateurs, right?

I'm pretty sure that my staff is under the impression that this is my motto, but a closer look would reveal that I plan, albeit on a larger scale than many people. A few days ago, I wrote that thread on Happenstance Theory that might have made you think that planning is unnecessary and that one must merely wait for Fate to deliver a gift-wrapped career. Sorry. Not that simple. It is clear to me that many people miss opportunities and adventures because they over-plan, but I must add that just as many people who don't plan, fail to get the most out of the opportunities that they "happenstance into."

Paul Watzlawick once said, “You can’t not communicate,” indicating that when we withhold communication from someone, our silence telegraphs our displeasure. Along the same line of reasoning, I would say "You can't not plan." The point being that people who claim that they don't plan are fooling themselves. They may not consciously, deliberately plan weeks or months ahead, but as they face the crises that continuously erupt in their lives, they micro-plan. Micro-planning is that “Geeze-what-do-I-do-now-moment” that occurs when you realize that you’re busy waving at the camera at 49er’s Thursday Night Game when you told your hardcore Niners fan boss who's probably watching the game at home that you had to be off for a funeral.

Life will force you to plan. The longer you wait to do it, the fewer resources you will have.

The hidden agenda.

Yes, I have a surreptitious side... it comes from the daily dose of irony I seem to get from life. If one is planning, then one should have something remotely resembling goals. I really want to go easy here, because I think that there is a balance we have to strike between being process-oriented and being goal-oriented. This is my recurring theme of making sure there is ample time to pause occasionally to be sure that we see other opportunities and can adjust our course (plans) to accommodate these new possibilities (goals). I have seen students and professionals whose lives were so directed at very specific goals that when they achieve the goal, they realized that the rest of their life is in utter chaos. Likewise, I have seen folks whose aversion to goal-setting (sometimes referred to as "going with the flow") generated its own special kind of disorganization and disarray.

Life will force you to set goals. The longer you wait to do it, the more dissatisfying your choices.

Your "right now" moment.

Yeah, you should do this right now. Don't wait until you finish this entry.

  1. Grab a pen and a piece of paper.

  2. Write down any five goals that you have set for yourself. (These do not have to be huge. Small is good. Seriously. Example: A few weeks ago, I impulsively set a goal of starting a blog. Note here, I said "starting a blog" not "running and maintaining and informative blog." Baby steps. Then on Sunday, I set a goal of coming up with a five-things-that-can-enhance-your-career thread. I have three others, but I will not share them as they involve a 60" plasma TV, a tropical island, and a Pulitzer Prize.)

  3. Choose one goal. (I would recommend a "starting a blog" type of goal as opposed to a "Pulitzer Prize" type of goal.)

  4. Turn over your paper and write words "Plan For" followed by the goal you have chosen at the top of the sheet. (In my case, it would be "Plan For Five Entries on my Blog"

  5. Skipping two lines between each number, write the numbers one through ten down the left margin of the paper.

  6. Write in an element of what you have to do to achieve this goal. Don't worry about order or timeline at this point. (Once again, as an example: Part of my plan was to put an entry on my calendar that said, Blog Stuff. Another element of my plan included reading other career blogs.)

  7. When you have ten plan elements written down, check to see if they make sense in the order in which they were written down. If not, renumber them. By the way, if you do not have ten plan elements, look at those you do have and break them into smaller steps. (I can break down "reading other career blogs into: 1. Googling career blogs. 2. Bookmarking career blogs. 3. Reading career blogs. Cool, huh?)

  8. Guestimate the time it will take you to complete all of the elements of the plan as a whole and put that as the "completion date" after step ten.

  9. Do not do this with anything else on your list until you complete this plan.

  10. When you have completed the plan, make another list of five goals. Hopefully, you have a few new goals. Repeat steps one through nine.

If at first you don't succeed, you're probably like the rest of us.

My final words of wisdom here are related to that whole success/fail dichotomy. I consistently say to my counselors and students, "If you're not making mistakes, you're probably not working hard enough." There are reasons we complete some plans and don't complete others. Some plans are just stupid and ill-conceived. (This blog seemed like a good idea when I started it, I suppose the jury is still out.) Sometimes resources diminish while we are executing a plan. Sometimes our goals change and we re-invest our time and effort elsewhere. We can spend time beating ourselves because we failed to achieve a goal or we can evaluate, reassess, and begin planning what we want to do next.

Plan something. Now.

1 comment:

  1. I started reading your blog after you posted the link on Work4Us, and it has been tremendously helpful to me as I try to find a job now that my visiting professorship is ending. Thank you for all the great, free advice!