In today's working world, instability is the norm. Gone are the days of wrapping your identity and your life around one company and one career path. Phrases like "the gig economy" and "job-hopping" are part of our vernacular, and changing not just jobs but careers every four or so years is common.
Some would say that this is disorienting and overwhelming. I say it is an opportunity to define and lead our own career paths in new and exciting ways. But we need to be prepared.
To navigate all of this with clarity and resilience, we must ground ourselves in a deep sense of who we are and what we stand for, the experience and strengths that we bring to the table, and the kind of impact that we want to have.
A personal Strategic Plan is your framework for being a confident and intentional leader of your career path—rather than letting life happen to you. Here are five reasons why you need one:
1. Too many of us feel lost and directionless
The winding ways in which careers and jobs shift can lead many of us to feel like we're doing something wrong. There aren't any linear paths anymore, save for very few professions. We are each creating our own path, step by step. And often we feel off track or off the map entirely.
Your Strategic Plan gives you a clear sense of direction. It is the compass that points to your true north—the values and principles at your core. It informs your career decisions, and guides your outlook on the landscape as a whole. It tells you where you are on the map, and where you're headed.
2. Limitless job possibilities are paralyzing
The seemingly unending career track options that lie before us are overwhelming. After all, the job that you'll have later on in your career may not even exist yet. How do you prepare for that? How wide or narrow do you cast your net in a job search? If it's true that you can be anything you want to be, how do you decide?
Your Strategic Plan uncovers your true sense of purpose, which already lies within you. This mission can be expressed through many lines of work. Through creating your plan, you're not limiting yourself to one field "I'm in PR & Marketing," instead you focus tightly on mission "I tell impactful stories that engage diverse audiences." When you know that you're looking for opportunities to live out that mission, you'll be able to recognize those opportunities when they come.
3. Personal branding is a lot of pressure
When people ask you, "What do you do?" it can cause a whole lot of feelings to rise to the surface—confusion, shame, lack of confidence. Do you answer with the job you want, or the job you have? Your side hustle/passion project or the one that sends you a steady paycheck? How do you explain your work in a way that opens up a conversation and helps you make connections rather than simply survive the two minutes of speaking?
Your Strategic Plan enables you to articulate who you are and what you're about with clarity and confidence. You'll ace job interviews, represent yourself in a cohesive and focused manner through your online presence, and your LinkedIn profile and cover letters will be a snap.
4. Change and uncertainty are always lurking
We treat change like it's something that comes around once in a while, and we can't wait until things just get back to normal already. Look around: change is normal. The sooner that we learn how to navigate the change and uncertainty that are a part of everyday, the more resilient, content, and successful we'll be.
Your Strategic Plan helps you stay grounded as you navigate change and uncertainty. You can return to those core pieces of who you are and what drives you time and again to remind yourself of why you do what you do and why you believe so deeply that it's important. And, since your plan is the framework of what you stand for, not just a plan for your next few steps, you'll be nimble when you need to roll with the punches when they come. Your plan will continue to evolve with you.
5. Learning on the fly can't be the only way
Making the space for training and support is an afterthought in the fast pace of our working world. In this do, produce, achieve knowledge economy, it is rare to have the space to gather your thoughts and reflect on your experiences in a way that will help you be a more effective and impactful leader.
Your Strategic Plan holds you accountable to making the time for the core, foundational work upon which everything else is built: your leadership style, how you communicate and interact with your team, how you manage your energy and motivation, everything. When you take the time for this inner-work, you set the framework for building additional leadership and professional skills that will stick—you'll know how to integrate and apply them through your unique style so that you are more authentic, confident, and effective.