Most professionals don’t think of their careers in terms of a blueprint. Instead they equate careers to “having a good job”. Instead, I’d like to present in this chapter an alternative definition of thinking about your career. These are the same techniques that I have used to take my career from an entry level employee to Chief Operating Officer of a private software company and now to the CEO and Founder of my own company. These are the same techniques that high 6 and 7 figure executives use when defining and executing their own careers. These are the same techniques that I’ve used when building teams across every functional area during my 12-year executive career. This chapter will go through the blueprint in detail.
Below is an overview of the entire process. The process represents 5 core steps that students and professionals should consistently apply to their lives once every 6 months to a year to ensure that they are consistently making progress towards their long-term career plan. But just applying the 5 core steps are not enough. To truly accelerate your career, there are 3 steps that need to be applied consistently. Applying these 3 steps consistently through the process will ensure that you see absolute acceleration of your results. We’ll discuss these 5 core and 3 acceleration steps next.
Figure 1 summarizes the entire process in detail.
Figure 1 – The 5 x 3 Dream Career Blueprint
The 5 Core Steps
Step 1 – Create a Career Plan
Organizations don’t proceed with the execution on their business without a clear strategic plan. Executives spend tons of time planning, before a fiscal year, defining the company’s vision, mission, values and then a strategy to compete in their target market. From this strategy flows an operational plan to execute on the strategy and get results. The point: Companies don’t execute until they have a strategy in place. If we keep the same analogy in place, there should be no reason that professionals execute on their career without a clear strategy in place. This strategy needs to be defined as part of a career plan, like a strategic plan that organizations kick the year off with. Most professionals look for jobs. This is equivalent to a company executing without a strategy in place and without a direction in which they want to go.
This is step 1 – Create a Career Plan. The goal of the career plan is to define your values as an individual, your vision (or long term goal for your life) and your mission to get closer towards your vision (or the next job towards your vision). When you don’t go through this process, you land up taking up a job that you don’t love, or you work for the paycheck instead of truly creating a career for yourself or worst yet you quit in a few years to find the next shiny thing. The result – wasted human capital, wasted monetary capital, wasted time and wasted opportunities to gain long term wealth.
Instead, step back, focus on the big picture first and use that to take your career to the next level. Conclusion: Start with step 1 – Put your career plan together before proceeding with your next job.
Step 2 – Master the Job Search
The outcome of step 1 will be of the following: The job title, the position, the industry and location that you are going to target as part of your job search. This doesn’t have to be a new company. It could just mean a promotion in your current role or a new department within your current company.
It is now time to operate on your strategy. The first step in that operation is to find you your next job. Unfortunately, most people search for jobs incorrectly. They fall for the classic mistake in the book of applying on a company’s website or on job boards. Those techniques don’t work period. 80% of jobs are filled through a hidden job market. The ability to tap into this hidden job market is the key to success in the job search world. Executives know what this hidden job market is and they can take full advantage of the same.
Secondly, candidates create generic resumes and cover letters that are used to apply to tons of jobs. This process simply doesn’t work. Hiring managers are scanning tons of resumes daily and unless they find a pretty close match to what they want, there is a low chance that they are going to get back to the candidate.
Instead, think of creating a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) that is targeted to your ideal next job. Also, instead of thinking in terms of cover letters, think in terms of “Value Proposition Letters”, that indicate to employers what value you can add to their teams.
Thirdly, candidates work directly with Human Resources (HR) of their target company. Another big mistake. The job of HR is simply to support the hiring team in the process, but filtering out resumes that don’t match the job criteria. They can say NO, but not the ability to say YES. Instead focus on going after the hiring managers. Your goal as part of the job search process is to connect and build a relationship with your hiring manager.
Another issue is the lack of “Thought Leadership” that today’s candidates showcase. In today’s competitive job search world, candidates need to stand out and provide “Thought Leadership” on what they can offer to prospective employers. This one technique, again used by 6 and 7 figure executives is crucial to differentiating yourself from the crowd, so that employers already know what you can bring to be table as they are researching you in today’s social world.
Finally, professionals need to present themselves as a package to employers that includes their resume, value proposition letter (VPL) and their thought leadership. The resume and VPL is like a “Product” that a company would offer to its customers. The “Thought Leadership” is like marketing and brand building that companies will do to attract customers. Just like a company, you are attracting companies to your company a.k.a. YOU.
Step 3 – Ace Your Interviews
The outcome of step 2 is nothing but several job interviews, hopefully in your desired job position, title, industry and location all defined as part of your career plan. Next comes the phase of acing those interviews. Highly talented candidates lose out on opportunities due to their lack of preparation when it comes to interviews. As mentioned before, today’s job market is highly competitive. With technology, has come the ability for companies to easily outsource their work. Making a fulltime hire is a big decision for the company and so they are being extremely selective. That’s why professionals need to walk into their job search with utmost confidence and answer every question with ease. How does this happen? Simple: you need to put yourself into the shoes of the company and truly understand what they are looking for. This sounds simple in theory, but many professionals don’t spend the time doing this before their job interviews. The outcome, lost opportunities.
The big takeaway from this step is to focus on preparing well for your upcoming job interview and truly understand what this company cares for.
Step 4 – Evaluate Your Offers and Negotiate
The outcome of step 3 (hopefully) is many job offers. This is a great outcome and many professionals should be proud to be here. But your job is not over yet. To ensure that you enjoy the benefits of a successful long term career and do what you love, you must objectively evaluate your job offers and pick a company that matches your values we defined in step 1, when we created your career plan.
Once you pick a job you want to go with, you’ll need to think about the offer and whether negotiation makes sense. Most professionals don’t negotiate their offers. Why not? Professionals should take the time to think deeply about their offer, evaluate the offer to their career plans and negotiate as necessary in the right fashion and with confidence. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you get paid what you are worth and this is exactly what this step is about.
Step 5 – Accelerate Your Career/Get Promoted
So, you’ve picked a job after your evaluation process, negotiated the offer and everything was accepted for both sides. Congratulations. This is the time to take it easy and breathe a little. But don’t get too complacent. We’ve got to work to do.
This is an extremely crucial step. The first 90 to 180 days in any company are going to establish you as a leader in the organization and position yourself for long term success i.e. access high value projects and not to mention promotions. This is equivalent to the “under commit and over deliver” concept that you’ve probably heard off. When you join a company, the company doesn’t know what you can offer, outside of the interview process. It’s your job to prove to them that you mean business, that you can deliver. You want them to start trusting you and put you into the “Insider Circle”. The first 90 to 180 days will define that.
Most people think that getting promoted is outside of their hands. I beg to differ. I truly believe that if you have a strong plan in place and the discipline to execute, you can position yourself for a promotion.
In fact, this is done using a 3-step framework: 1. By doing great work 2. By consistently promoting yourself and 3. By networking internally and externally.
The final step in our process is “Repeat”. This is where the magic comes into play. Most professionals go through their careers in jobs that they do not evaluate yearly. This is equivalent to a company going through their execution each year without taking a pulse on how they are doing and what makes sense to do over the next year. There is a reason why we hear all about Microsoft’s and Google’s results in the news and what their plans for the next year are. The point is that organizations take a pulse each year on how they did and what their plans are for the next year.
That’s exactly what top executives do each year and what professionals should do.
Each year you need to ask yourself this one question:
“Will what I do over the next year take me closer to my long-term goals?”
If the answer is yes, proceed with where you are. If not, you’ve got to go through the entire process once again. This means move departments, look for another job, go back to school. Do something that will get your closer to your long term and commit to it whole heartedly towards your long term.
That’s exactly how progress is made fast. When you take a pulse regularly on where you are and adjust depending on how closer or further away you are from your long-term goals, you won’t even realize how close you will be towards your vision.
Till next time,