Most students and professionals don’t think of their careers in terms of a blueprint. Instead they equate careers to “having a good job”. Yes, your job is part of your career, but it not the only part of your career. Instead, I’d like to present in this chapter an alternative definition of thinking about your career. I’d like to present to you “ACCELERATE – The 5 x 3 Dream Career Blueprint” that consists of five core steps and three acceleration steps. In this chapter, we will cover the five core steps and then in chapter 2 we will discuss how to accelerate your results three times using three acceleration steps.
The five core steps are all jotting down your long-term goals and putting a plan in place to achieve them. It is also about smaller plans to execute and achieve your long-term goals. But just applying the five core steps are not enough. To truly accelerate your career, there are three additional steps that need to be applied consistently. Applying these three steps consistently through the process will ensure that you see absolute acceleration of your results.
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
I’d like for you to imagine for a second that you are an organization or a company and not an individual. Think about how companies operate for a second. Companies don’t proceed with the execution of their business without a clear strategic plan. Executives spend tons of time, before a fiscal year, defining the company’s vision, mission, values, and then defining a strategy to compete in their target market. From this strategy flows an operational plan to execute on the strategy and to get results. Through the year and over the next few years, executives and teams work hard to execute on that strategic plan and achieve company goals. However, companies don’t just stop there. They constantly review how they are doing as part of achieving their goals. They consistently take a pulse on the status of that plan – irrespective of whether they achieved their planned goals or not. If they achieved their goals, then next year, companies will set even more aggressive goals. If they didn’t achieve their goals, then will relook at what went wrong and fix their plan as necessary.
The point: Companies don’t execute until they have a strategy in place.
Now, bring yourself back to YOU. 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. There should be no reason that individuals not take a pulse on their plan regularly and adjust or set aggressive goals each year. Yes, even for their careers.
This strategy needs to be defined as part of your career plan, like the strategic plan that organizations kick the year off with. Unfortunately, most people look for jobs. This is equivalent to a company going ahead and executing on a day to day basis, without a strategy in place and without a direction in which they want to go. Imagine how disruptive that would be to an organization.
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 (the plan to execute on 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 or you don’t get paid what your worth or you’re not satisfied with the difference you are making in this world etc. etc. instead of truly creating a career for yourself that is meaningful, rewarding and fulfilling. 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: A long term career plan (based on your values, your dream life etc. etc.) and a short term next move that you need to make to get there. Your next move consists of: 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 could also mean going back to school to get another job.
This is the first step towards operating on your strategy. You are now executing. Finding that next job is next. 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 something known as the “hidden job market”. If you’re new to this term and are surprised, don’t worry about it. We’ll be covering it in detail. Six and seven figure executives only tap into this hidden job market. Your 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 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 you. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd. 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. Again, if you have no idea what this is – don’t sweat it. We’ll get there.
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, by filtering out resumes that don’t match the job criteria. They can say NO to you, but they can’t say YES. In fact, most HR folks don’t even know what hiring managers are looking for. Instead focus on going after the hiring managers or other decision makers. Your goal as part of the job search process is to connect and build a relationship with your hiring manager, get your profile in front of them and showcase the value you can bring to them and their teams
Another issue is the lack of “Thought Leadership” that today’s candidates showcase. In today’s competitive job search world, you will need to stand out and provide “Thought Leadership” on what you can offer to prospective employers. This one technique, again used by six and seven 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, you need retrain your mind to think of yourself as a “Product” and a complete package that is to be presented to employers. This package includes your resume, value proposition letter (VPL) and your thought leadership. The resume and VPL is the “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 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 you need to walk into your 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. Then you’ve got to prepare. You’ve got to prepare hard. 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 aka their problems. Then present yourself as a solution to their problems. Do it by thoroughly researching the market, the company, the interview process. Do it by studying and practicing. Do it by asking the right questions. Do it by. preparing yourself well for interview day.
Step 4 – Evaluate Your Offers and Negotiate
The outcome of step 3 (hopefully) is many job offers. This is a great outcome and many of you should be proud to be there. 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. That was the whole point of it, right?
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? You should take the time to think deeply about their offer, evaluate the offer to your 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. You’re happy that this job and offer is getting you closer to your long term as outlined in step 1. 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.
Step 5 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. 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 outcome – faster career growth compared to any of your peers. We’ll see details on how to put together and execute on a promotion plan in Appendix E.
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.