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This post is the 3rd in a series of 6 posts regarding career development planning. You can find earlier posts in the series by clicking here.
The “Pathway to a Successful & Satisfying Career” includes four key steps:
- Ongoing Reflection & Transformation
Attaining Alignment Between Your Personal Vision and Career Vision
This post will address the Alignment phase. The Alignment phase is a concerted effort to discover what your unique parameters (uncovered through the Assessment Phase) are telling you and use those insights to create a career vision for your future. It is where the “magic” happens, but it requires time, commitment, honesty, and courage.
I find that most people are too busy to stop and reflect on their future. Many may be hesitant to see the facts as they are or may be confused with a lack of process. However, remember that your career is your most significant financial asset, and it requires an ongoing effort to nurture and grow its value. In turn, remember that time is your ultimate storehouse of value, and your career will consume more than 70,000 of your life in the process. Achieving alignment between your personal life and your career life is paramount to your long-term happiness and success in life. As the old saying goes, “We work to live, not live to work.”
The Process of Achieving Alignment
Assuming that you are willing to commit the time, be honest about your current circumstances, and dare to face likely changes in your life, the process of achieving alignment between your personal life and career life involves “connecting the dots” between your unique parameters. Think of the process as constructing a Venn diagram depicting the logical relationships between your parameters. The template I use is called the Career Lens and serves to help you see the logical connections and draw conclusions based upon those relationships.
Career Lens Template
The process of reflecting upon the “tapestry” and discovering the logical relationships among the boxes leads to the creation of your personal career vision statement. The process is intentional and may take weeks to complete. Initially, set aside an hour each day for a week. Use the first day to scan all of the information you compiled during the Assessment phase. Summarize your findings in your own words and put them into a bullet-point summary format. Populate the appropriate “box” on the Career Lens template with your summary bullet points. Keep the wording simple, concise, and easy to understand. Once your hour is up, place the material aside.
Use Day 2 to contemplate what you wrote, letting your subconscious mind wander and make further connections. On Day 3, begin crafting your Career Vision Statement, keeping in mind that your initial draft will likely be woefully incomplete or incomprehensible. Don’t worry and stay with the process! Use Day 4 to let your subconscious mind wander again as thoughts will come together without you realizing it. On Day 5, use your hour to rewrite or refine your Career Vision Statement. Use Day 6 for further subconscious thought, and Day 7 to finalize your Career Vision Statement.
Keep in mind that you will likely continue to refine your Career Vision Statement for several weeks (maybe even months) as your thoughts mature and your vision becomes more apparent. You should also test your Career Vision Statement with close family members and friends. Can you state it clearly and succinctly? Do they understand your vision? Are they in a position to help you realize your vision? If not, refine it until you can clearly and succinctly state it, people understand it, and are in a position to help you realize it.
Validate Your Career Vision
Congratulations! You successfully fought through the toughest part of the career development process. You know what you want, why you want it, can state it clearly to others, and have put them in a position to help you achieve it. However, you must validate it with those that are currently in a similar career. Validation involves talking informally with people that now occupy a career with the same vision as yours. Your objective is to make sure the path you chose aligns with your Career Lens, as well as prospects for or changes in the field or industry, training required, skills needed, company cultural issues, compensation potential, etc.
The validation activity helps expand your current network and test your Career Vision Statement with those in your chosen field. You may decide to refine your Career Vision Statement further based upon their feedback. It also sets the stage for the Campaign phase – the task of identifying and securing your chosen career.
Using Your Career Lens
The personal career vision statement becomes your “lens” on how you see the world. It is what you look for and need in a career to achieve alignment between your personal life and career life. Looking at career situations or opportunities through your lens provides a foundation for assessing and judging those situations or opportunities. It becomes your method of objectively seeing your career and life, and evaluate what changes, if any, may be required to help you achieve alignment.
Conversely, your Career Lens also provides a way for current and potential employers to see you regarding what you desire and need in your career and life. There are no misunderstandings or mistaken expectations about who you are, what you will become, and what impact you desire to have (aka the value you provide to your current or potential employer). Both sides have a unique view and understanding of expectations, which form a foundation for building trust, commitment, and mutual benefit. Each participant has a way to see each other, as each side intends objectively. You achieve a “two-way” alignment.
Whenever I meet someone dissatisfied with their career I ask them these questions:
- How do you define career satisfaction? What criteria do you use?
- Did your current career satisfy the majority of your criteria at some point?
- What’s changed? What parameters can you identify that fell out of alignment?
You use your Career Lens to identify what may no longer be in alignment. You either find a way to adapt to the situation with your current employer (different role or position, change in responsibilities, etc.) or decide to move on to a different employer. Keep your Career Lens handy as you will refer to it many times during your career. You should also revisit it annually as some of your personal parameters may change, potentially impacting how you view your current career or opportunities.
Too often, people get frustrated and decide to leave their current position without realizing the underlying issues. You have career “equity” that took you months, if not years, to earn. Moving to a new career position does not guarantee that you will receive the same level of career equity as your current position. When something doesn’t feel right about your current career, take the time to study your Career Lens, and pinpoint what has changed in your life or career.
Subsequent posts will outline each step of the pathway, so stay tuned. In the meantime, where are you along the path? If you need help, a process to follow, or a source of subtle but effective accountability, feel free to contact me at email@example.com, or visit my website, https://www.cfpathways.com, for more information.