Career Planning…the Rules Have Changed

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In this fast paced, ever changing economy, career planning is no longer a straight line from college degree to CEO. The new rules favor a mix of daring and caution, preparation for disaster and carpe diem.

Reid Hoffman, entrepreneur, product strategist and investor, suggests an ABZ approach to planning your career—whether you’re a recent college grad or a mid-40’s employee. The ABZ model tacks away from the old ABC career planning paradigm—follow your heart, map out a ten-year plan, and you’ll be on easy street.

ABZ planning is an adaptive, aggressive, trial and error approach that seizes upside opportunities and sidesteps risks. The three-part strategy includes:

Plan A is your current plan or job if you’re already employed. It’s your standard ABC career plan, one you pursue by following your passion, your perceived mission in life. Your career map may include x amount of years learning this, y amount of years in that post and so forth, until you reach the top.

Plan B is what you re-align yourself to when you discover Plan A is less promising than Plan B. In some cases Plan A may even be working toward your goal, but Plan B may offer the career success you’ve been looking for. Hoffman suggests that your Plan B, while different, should be connected to your current career activity so that you can apply what you’ve learned in Plan A to Plan B. Instead of completely ditching A, you’re segueing into B, leveraging transferable skills without completely starting over. It’s an approach that prepares your career trajectory for the unexpected, something you’ll see a lot of in the coming job market.

Plan Z anticipates the worst-case scenario. Here, you’ll need to identify the metrics that determine how fast and surely you’re approaching the anticipated nosedive your career will take. If you see a dead end coming in a certain career path, Plan Z should map out a viable alternative of career survival, one that still allows you to take risks in another direction—without “ending up on the street,” as Hoffman puts it. Technical careers can be most vulnerable to change and serve as a good example. If you’ve become a whiz kid in a certain software program, and your metrics suggest the program will become obsolete, you can segue into a hot new—albeit unpredictable—software field, but only after you’ve prepared to meet your financial “monthly nut” should your new direction face a dead end.

Heather R. Huhman, HR Manager and Glassdoor career expert offers a number of suggestions for planning and pursuing a successful career. She suggests you continually develop your personal brand, which should be authentic, different and communicate what it can do for others. You should become so good at doing something that people associate you with that talent or ability. To be effective, you’ll need to promote your brand in a consistent and professional manner using social media and face-to-face interaction.

Another path to career success involves cultivating relationships with peers and colleagues. Develop positive business relationships with those you interact with at work every day. Do the same with those you meet at seminars, conferences and trade shows. Isolating yourself in a cubicle 9 to 5 will do little to advance your career. To keep yourself poised for success, make a habit of continually improving yourself—volunteer to give a presentation or prepare a report. Your eagerness to take on challenges can help promote your personal brand.

Whether you’re just starting out or already in the trenches, following the new rules of career planning will be key to your success.

Image courtesy of chanpipat/


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