Research shows that when we have a plan, our chance of achieving success is 80% higher. And those who set goals for themselves achieve higher rates of success in their careers. Knowing how we plan to accomplish those goals – i.e. having a plan — is pivotal. The Career Game Plan provides a simple four-step process to do that.
By creating your own individualized Career Game Plan, you will find that it is unique to you, and defines what your version of success looks like. It fits on one page and thus can be easily shared with your managers, mentors, and coaches. It paints the picture of what a great career looks like, with a clear road map to get there.
What are the components of that map? First, you must be able to articulate what you want, and what you are uniquely skilled to do: this is your purpose statement. Then, you build goals to support your purpose coming to fruition. Lastly, you will need to brainstorm the competencies and action steps required to achieve your goals.
Craft a Purpose Statement
To build your own winning career game plan, you need to start with knowing what you want. This can be summarized best in a purpose statement. A strong purpose articulates your passions, your unique strengths, and your essence in a single sentence.
For this to be done well, the statement must be concise (think Twitter-handle length, which is 140 characters or less). People’s attention spans are increasingly short, and if we get too long-winded, we risk losing people’s interest, and may even interfere with their ability to comprehend our purpose fully. A good sniff test is running it by those we trust and know well, and asking them to paraphrase it. If they understand what we stand for and what we want to do, and are able to play it back for you accurately, you will know that you are on the right track.
So, to get started, reflect on what makes you truly happy and excited, asking these questions:}
- What types of tasks, meetings, or work are you doing on your favorite days? The answer to this question likely yields some sources of your true happiness and passions.
- What do people tell you that you are naturally good at? This signals your strengths.
- What do people ask for your help or advice on? This is a strong indicator of unique capabilities.
Often, I find that there is a gap between what we want, and what we are doing. This actually leads to the next step, which is all about setting appropriate goals, aligned with your purpose statement, to take your career to the next level.
Now that you have the first draft of your purpose statement, it’s time to build the goals to actively fulfill it – and in order to take your purpose from aspirational to real, strong goals are pivotal. I recommend setting two or three goals (definitely no more than three!).
Just as you did with your purpose statement, upfront brainstorming is key. Involve those you trust in the brainstorming process, let the goals flow out of you, and let your purpose guide you. With every potential goal, ask yourself: how does this help me fulfill the purpose statement? Your goals should be the guardrails on your Career Game Plan. They help you know where the boundaries are – i.e. of what you do well, versus what you do not do well.
To set good goals, I like the SMART goal framework – creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Once there is a prioritized handful of goals, I look at the following like a checklist to make them even better and more specific:
Specific: What specifically should happen to achieve this goal?
Measureable: What numbers will I need, if any, to measure the successful achievement of this goal?
Attainable: During the timeframe specified, how attainable is this goal?
Relevant: How relevant is this goal to my true purpose?
Time-bound: When will this goal be achieved?
Once you have a strong set of goals that align with the SMART goal framework, you’re ready to prioritize how you will achieve them.
Competencies are the skills, behaviors, or attributes that define who we will become. They range from leadership skills, to detail-oriented attributes, to communication behaviors. They ensure our ability to achieve our plans, and help strike a balance between our high-level goals and our purpose statements.
So when you reflect on your purpose statement, it is likely that there may be elements of the statements that you are not currently achieving. Goals will help you to close those gaps. It’s one thing to have goals to get there, but it’s another to have a list of skills and/or behaviors that you need to internalize to make it possible. I recommend prioritizing three competencies of focus that both have a high impact on your purpose and goals, and a high ability to be improved upon.
The Nielson Group published an article “List of Soft Skill Competencies with Description,” with a menu of more than 100 possible competencies to choose from. I highly recommend perusing it with your purpose and goals in mind. Select all of the competencies on the list that have impact, and then, with list in hand, prioritize the list based on that impact and your ability to improve upon your goals and purpose. (In the final step, those activities will be prioritized to ensure you are building upon the skills, attributes, and behaviors to fulfill your purpose and achieve your goals.)
You have arrived! It’s the final step towards building your winning Career Game Plan. And this step is fairly effortless, which is a nice reward for taking the time to invest in a purpose statement, SMART goals, and prioritized competencies. If you have diligently articulated your purpose, crafted goals that fulfill it, and chosen to focus on the competencies that drive the most positive impact on those, then your tactical plan should emerge naturally.
Action plans have three key ingredients. (Again, in the spirit of keeping things simple, there is some magic to keeping to the rule of three!)
In this case, solid action plans have:
- An “action step” name and description
- The resources needed to achieve it
- A timeline for completion
Take each goal and break it down into smaller steps, then create a column for resources, and another column with a deadline completion date. If an action step requires a significant time or money investment, it is essential that it be part of the plan early on, and completion dates are key for accountability: when we write a date down beside a goal, we increase our chances of success significantly. Putting pen to paper makes it real.
The beauty of this process is that you can break down your goals into your own desired time frame. I break mine down every three months, and keep a running to-do list of them on my office whiteboard. Everything that makes the three month task list should also support my long-term purpose and goals. It’s the filter by which to prioritize day-to-day tasks.
With every choice we make through this system, you can take a step closer to having the career you truly want. Remember: those with a plan win! Now, how will you build your own winning Career Game Plan?
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