“My career seems to have drifted for the last few years.” A phrase I hear only too often. Of course I understand that roles and companies evolve and change, and individuals can be somewhat ‘in limbo’; but even in these uncertain times it is those people who are continually career conscious that reap the rewards.

I actually think that the concept of career planning is a little dated. ‘Planning’ infers a set-in-stone plan that one follows through thick and thin. In the days of previous generations and jobs for life this was probably a great thing to do, but today we need to think a little more creatively.

I encourage the people I work with to be Career Explorers because explorers have or do the following:

Extreme self awareness

They know their strengths and what they stand for. They recognise their courage to push themselves and others towards a goal and acknowledge their limitations. The latter of course can be challenged and stretched. The first stage of being a Career Explorer is to assesses yourself to ensure that you know what you offer and want, both technically and culturally.

Consider options

Self awareness allows you to consider the options you have. There are no shortcuts though; this is a phase of investigation. You’ll need to explore the job types, companies, traditional and new career paths, qualifications, cultures, locations and more. We all know that HR is different in every organisation, so talk, network and be curious; find out what is happening out there and which style of practice, leadership or project suits you best. Career Explorers will continually be refreshing their knowledge in this area, even when their current role is going well.

Set Goals

Every explorer has their goal; something to work towards and aim for. This provides the vital ingredient to this process – purpose. If you are able to define the purpose behind what you are doing this allows the clarity and motivation to make it happen. But let’s be sure of what we mean by purpose. Great Career Explorers recognise that their purpose, like ambition, can be about breadth of contribution or self development, rather than needing to be a hierarchical climb. And exploring, unlike planning, allows for unexpected elements to come in to play, be considered and adopted. The road to your goal should rarely be a straight one.

“One giant leap…”

Explorers are people who know their goal and actually take the steps towards it. They may have to fight off cynics and blockers, but they will take action. A Career Explorer who does not take action is simply a dreamer – someone who is waiting for things to happen to them and their careers will drift and wither. How do we ensure that we take action? Well, I suggest you share your purpose or goal with an influential character in your life. I often find that the contents of employees’ PDP’s are very different to what they personally are trying to achieve. This should not be the case. Share your thoughts, be judged on your progress and achievement and commit to succeed.

Evaluate

Explorers will constantly evaluate and fine tune their progress. Is this the right path? What else could I have done? Why am I not seeing success? Let’s celebrate what worked really well! Career Explorers are always conscious of what they are doing and how this leads to the next milestone. The best explorers kept a journal – find a modern day equivalent to keep tabs on interesting aspects of your journey and keeping on top of the attainment of the goals. Stagnating and drifting are not options in this competitive workplace, so ‘career consciousness’ is a mindset to value.

If you have not assessed yourself and your options, then now is the time to do so; best done with the support of a professional career expert. This lays the foundations for your journey. Career Exploring is a mindset that one has to adopt, based on inquisitiveness, continuous development and aspiration. To get on in your career you must want to achieve, so if you do then take action to make the most of your skills, influence and contribution. In 2015 look back and recognise the shift, not the drift.

At The Career Gym we are proud that our clients truly get to explore and discover new aspects of their career and lives that make a real difference. Call us and make 2012 a year of exploration.

Originally written by The Career Gym on Changeboard, the leading HR job board and career advice site.
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