Post by Nicole Dhanraj, PhD
Plan for Success
My last article emphasized the importance of planting seeds to build the professional and personal life you want. To complement planting seeds, you should have a plan so as the seedlings start unfolding; you are prepared to take action. You can potentially lose opportunities or place yourself in a quandary should you wait for these seedlings to mature and then figure out plans. Planning helps maximize your success.
Understand the Options
I knew about professional planning, goal setting and all the other hype associated with setting the stage for the future, but I never stopped to think about the details, let alone put pen to paper. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a plan….I definitely knew where I wanted to go but in hindsight my direction was vague. I came to realize this after a recent experience. Last year, I felt that I was in a candy shop when it came to my career. I had so many options, that my mouth was salivating but unsure which to choose. I was in agony. If I chose one flavor, it may spoil the taste of another…..I was stumped what to do though I knew where I wanted to go. I wanted to shove all the candy in my mouth but concerned about the tummy ache after. A friend mentioned I should try a life coach. Me, a life coach? This successful and determined girl who knew where she was going? I must have been in denial when I shrugged at such an idea. As I became more distressed in what path to take, I decided to seek a coach. Instead of a life coach, I sought the advice of a career advisor. I wanted someone to just tell me what to do regarding the current opportunities I had, and also to better understand the options available to me and better prepare myself so I can savor the success I was yearning for.
Blowing in the Wind
The three sessions I had with her made me realize that though I had the tools, the skills, the contacts, and a goal, I did not have a plan to stick to. My desires, my progression had to start with two key items; a plan and a self-assessment. With most things in life we assess the resources available and begin with a plan right? We need these key pieces prior to building a house, embarking on a project, or even throwing a party. How could I navigate this career jungle without a solid plan? I argued that I did have a plan…it was to become Chief Operating Officer of a radiology center….but this plan was a figment in my mind….it was a goal that kept blowing through the winds of my thoughts, settling occasionally. I was on a successful career path, or so I thought, but as opportunities arose, I got distracted, excited, or stressed. I started chattering, do I take this opportunity? Why did this opportunity come to me? What do I do, where do I go!!! How many of us, acts like me, just like fireflies….attracted to any light that flicker. Sometimes we get burned, other times we are lucky that the light was satisfying. However, it frustrated me…it wasn’t the golden bulb I was seeking. Though this firefly action provided some benefit, overall I felt my growth was stunted and that my efforts were not getting me to the place I envisioned.
Now if I had my professional plan, I would have determined if I wanted to take the scenic route or the shortest route to achieving my goals. As opportunities arose, I could evaluate what was in front of me, and determine where it fits in the plan. Is this piece of the puzzle in realizing my goals? Is this a distractor? Is this time to rest and switch gears? How easy would it be to evaluate these opportunities if you had a blueprint to guide you instead of stuffing your face with candy! It is possible to eat all the candy, but you got to have a plan of how to accomplish it!
Write it Down
My dad use to preach to us, “write it down so you never forget”. Regardless of where you are in life or career, a blueprint, a life plan, or a professional development plan can help keep you on the right path without getting derailed. In the event you lose your direction, lose motivation, or question why you are in a certain position, such a plan can remind you why you on a certain path and help quell dilemmas as they arise.
So by now you are in agreement with me the need to have a plan, so where do you start? It’s not overwhelming but it would require some time for you to think of the details. You may think that you don’t have the time to spare but I urge you to contemplate this question prior to dismissing the thought like I initially did. How many years does NASA plan for one successful space shuttle launch?
The 5 Essential Elements
The following are the five essential elements of developing your professional plan.
- Set your goal…a lofty but realistic one . Don’t stop there, don’t just write it down….pretend play! Imagine it, feel it, act it even dressing up!
- Write it down so you never forget! Details are good though not necessary
- Develop directions and a timeline to achieving your goal. Plan for detours such as life events and new opportunities or even a scarcity in resources.
- Add key notes to remind you the items that are important in achieving the goal.
As distractors arise consider:
- Does it better prepare me for what lies ahead?
- Does this delay the travel time?
- Can I afford this delay?
- Does it alter the golden plan?
- Be proactive, and take the time to update when necessary. Goals and priorities change, you change, new opportunities that you had never considered could be presented. You have to be malleable. When you set long term goals especially, you are taking a guess about the future. There are many forces that can impact your ability to follow through with your goals so it’s imperative you revisit these goals occasionally.
Confidence and Pride
One last time, write it down so you never forget it! If you are unsure where you are heading, that’s ok; formulate a couple short term goals and your pathway to achieving those. Don’t be intimidated with those around you may have short cuts to attaining their ultimate goals. You can take the long and scenic route at times. However, if you chose this less direct path, you have to recognize that achievement of your ultimate goals may take longer because you chose to take the side streets as opposed to the highway. Whatever you decide, do ensure that when someone asks, “what is in your portfolio” You can answer with confidence and pride, “a professional plan”!