Rethink job pursuit, start by thinking 2 jobs / 5 years out

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Making the leap to the next role is a challenge all career minded professionals face on a continuous basis. Most have a clear opinion about what they aim for next, but few have a clear for the role beyond your next one. By taking a grip on your goal 2 roles out in a 5 year perspective, you are likely to see more ways to get there. Here are my perspectives on how to structure such an activity.

Common career perspectives

A career plan often starts around basic aspiration Your management aspirations can be to grow your responsibility, e.g. people, money and type of roles. But the paths and ideas varies between professionals.

When discussing career ideas and paths three things stand out. First most mentees focus on what they want as next role and how to get it. Second mentees aspire to get experience from several areas. The third observation is few mentees have a perspective on the role after next. The result is often firm short term ideas with a high flexibility in the medium/long-term direction.

The alternative way of thinking I would like to suggest is to be firm on what you plan to do two roles out. A target built on aspirations, dreams and a clear understanding what it takes to get there. Once your target is clear you can be open minded about the different alternative routes taking you there. The pint of being firm about future and flexible about present is you will always move in the right directions. Near term flexibility is not to be open to anything short term. Rather to be open to consider different paths taking you towards your target.

Start with the end in mind

Defining your medium term career aspirations is hard. Pick a good note book. Collect ideas and thoughts over a period of time. Have serious conversations with yourself about what you love to do. Aspire to find some simple principles to guide you. One of the best examples I have heard was an Executive describing his principles as

  • FUN – I want to enjoy what I do to perform well
  • GROW – I want to grow my personal capabilities and never want to be fully capable in a role.
  • PAY – I want to get paid to support the life I want to live as a person and with mi family.
  • 3X – I want all three factors to be in place for any given role.

Build on the principles resonating best with you. For this part of your journey you might want to explore open conversations with senior leaders you have met and respect. A 15-30 minute conversation at this stage give you new perspectives beyond your own thinking. Most leaders your know are happy to share ideas with with you once you trust them to guide you in your career choices.

Your target two roles out

When you define your target you want to spend time thinking on both who you will be and what you will do. Professionals seem to be better at describing what they do and struggle in describing who they are.

What is the level of role you target, ranging from CEO down to an individual contributor. What is the core competence you associate yourself with? Perhaps with sales and development at the two extreme ends. In which part of the world do you see yourself? Not all parts of the world might suit you and your family.

Coming to an understanding of this direction is important. We tend to gain a reputation fast in our home organization. Tour superiors and peers tend to but you in a certain category. In narrow categories representing a share of your true capability. You want the “window to your peers” to represent who you are and what you want to do.

Flexibility in what to pursue next

Once you have defined your target role you are better equipped to direct your search for a great role. Make a list of roles with potential to take you towards your target. List what you can expect to learn in each role. Evaluate the potential to perform well. The next great job always starts with performing well in your current role.

Avoid tow move in one, both changing the field your work in and the level you operate is tough. Aim for lateral moves between functional areas or vertical moves in a filed you know.

Expect the unexpected near term. During one major re-organization I interviewed for 4 different roles at the same time, and landed happy in one of them. For another role the first contact was in the evening and the next day I have accepted. Neither of the two came out of slump. But an idea of where I wanted to go, and an openness to listen to options.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What are the principles guiding your professional life – the start for great career planning.
  2. Who are the senior leaders you would like to ask for advice – aim for the best ones you have met.
  3. What is the role you aim for two jobs out – an approximation of a 5-year target.
  4. Which role openings do you expect to see near term – start to position yourself for the ones you want before they are listed.

Additional reading suggestions

The first time I applied this thinking I was coached to take input from the leadership team of our company to shape my own ideas. Thanks TM, it was one of the better things I have done to learn about where to focus my professional energy.

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