The perils of short-term career planning and how to avoid them
We take jobs opportunistically, as they come up and it’s more a case of being in the right place at the right time. Some roles work out really well and advance our careers.
Others… not so much.
Opportunistic, leave-it-to-chance job hopping is like a game of roulette. On a professional path to nowhere, frustration, confusion and self-doubt soon settle in. It becomes increasingly hard to stay motivated as work becomes a daily grind and necessary chore.
We’re on the move, more often than ever
With job satisfaction levels continuing to drop, it’s small wonder we’re increasingly on the search for something better.
Research by Job Search Expert, Alison Doyle tells us that “Today, the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Many workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to another.”
While there are benefits to frequently changing jobs, doing so with a short-term focus is both career and self limiting.
7 Dangerous Pitfalls of Short-term Career Planning
#1 Most Performance Review Processes and Professional Development Plans (PDPs) are too narrow
While your manager may ask about your longer-term career plans, your development goals are more likely to be about addressing an immediate, obvious skill gap or gaining the next promotion with your current employer.
PDP based career development tends to be incremental and tactical, based more on your organisation’s needs. This is understandable given they’re likely paying for your professional development and time out to pursue it. Your organisation wants an immediate ‘return on investment’ and improved performance in the job you’re doing now.
#2 Changing jobs without long term career goals is pointless and time-consuming
Fabricating appointments, you find yourself ducking out of the office to take calls from recruiters and attend interviews. If you’re lucky to receive a job offer, you’ll need to decide quickly.
Without a long-term vision, it’s hard to see the bigger picture merits of a potential new job and make a fully informed decision. You’re more likely to decide based on whether it’s better than your current role. And if you’re particularly unhappy at work now, anything’s got to be better than this, right?
#3 Career development is the first thing to go when you’re under pressure and relentlessly busy
Endless meetings, project deadlines, dealing with ‘people issues’ at work and home, family commitments, health/fitness and a thousand other things compete for your time, week in and week out.
With your performance review coming up, you hastily sign up for a conference or short training course to tick the ‘development complete’ box.
But is that short course or industry junket really going to get you where you want to go?
#4 The risk of making a wrong move is much higher and more complicated
When the ‘new job glow’ wears off (usually between 3 – 6 months), you start the next job search all over again.
If you’ve ever been head-hunted (and flattered) into a role where they didn’t give you the full, warts–and-all picture before signing your contract, you’ll know what I mean! It’s what they didn’t tell you at the interview that invariably catches you out. With a sinking heart you soon realise this isn’t what you signed up for.
But while you’re stuck and desperate to get out, you’re going to need an acceptable reason as to why you’re changing jobs again so soon.
#5 You’re pulled into roles that are ‘more of the same’
Although comfortable, taking similar roles won’t expand your skills, challenge or fulfill you. ‘More of the same’ keeps you safely within your comfort zone.
Comfort zone jobs don’t teach you much or help you discover what you’re truly capable of.
Meanwhile unused skills become rusty, achievements become irrelevant and ageing experience becomes obsolete.
#6 Doing a similar role puts you in a box
When someone asks what you do, you’re more likely to say, “I’m a… [General Manager/Sales Executive/Accountant/Business Analyst].”
While admirable, this fails to describe the real value you bring or the unique difference only you can make. People associate you with your current job, not what you’re capable of, increasing the risk of being stereotyped. On paper, you don’t look or sound any different to anyone else in the same profession and your job application is more likely to go into the shredder pile.
Once confined to a ‘stereotyped box’, you’re more likely to be overlooked for exciting, new opportunities. As you watch your colleagues moving on to shinier jobs, you become increasingly invisible, frustrated and devalued.
#7 You’re unwittingly on a ‘please others’ road to regret for the path not taken
During her time working in palliative care, Bronnie Ware learnt that the #2 regret of those reaching the end of their life was not ‘having the courage to live a life true to myself, not what others expected of me.’ (Top 5 Regrets of the Dying).
Your manager, colleagues, family and friends may have your best interests at heart. Although well-intentioned, their motivation is more likely to be about keeping you ‘safe’.
Declining that job your colleague provided the introduction for or agreeing to stay where you are for a small pay rise (that would make life easier for your family), would be akin to letting them down.
Without long term clarity about what you want from your career, it’s simply easier to do what’s expected.
If you’ve fallen into the short-term career focus trap, it’s not your fault!
Thankfully the solution is simple.
How to Know Where You’ll Be 5 Years From Now
The goal is to create and sustain a truly rewarding and fulfilling career, regardless of which path you take. My simple, Career Clarity Formula, fills in the missing pieces:
- Vision – start with the end in mind. Your career is ultimately the sum of your all your different jobs, employers, achievements and experiences.
– How could your career and work be more meaningful, rewarding and complete?
– What’s the real difference you want to make and at the end of your career, what would you love to be remembered for?
A strong vision is compelling (you can’t not move towards it), aspirational (slightly beyond what you think you can do) and realistic (achievable).
- Personal and Professional Stocktake – take an inventory of skills, experience, values, priorities, passions, interests and strengths, to see what you already have and what’s missing. Taking stock identifies the starting point for a fulfilling career and highlights your real professional development needs.
- Purpose – your compelling reason for doing what you do, in your own unique way. You’re actually already fulfilling your purpose! You just may not be aware of what it is or could be. When you’re consciously aware of your purpose, making great career decisions becomes much easier. A highly effective early warning system for job satisfaction, your purpose and values tell you when it’s time to change course.
- Direction – once you’ve established your Purpose and Vision, you know where you’re heading and it just feels ‘right’. Clear direction shows you where to focus and what to pursue. If an opportunity doesn’t fit, you simply let it pass by.
From here it’s easy to map out a simple, effective Career Roadmap – a flexible career plan that travels with you and guides the way. A perpetual Career Roadmap shows when, where and how to change course without angst-ridden sleepless nights, frustration and a sense that your career and life is simply passing by…
Picture your last ever day at work…
Imagine how it would be to look back on your career with great memories, a deep sense of satisfaction and no regrets.
If your career is stalling and you’re simply marking time or you know what you’d love to do but don’t know how to make it happen, my 4 week, online Career Clarity Masterclass program will take you from drifting and confused to clear and confident.
The next class starts 27th July but places are filling up fast so click below to see if it’s right for you.
Caroline helps mid-career professionals and evolving organisations harness the power of change to achieve success in business, work and life.