Career planning can seem like something that takes weeks of time and tons of energy. After all, you might have spent years training and climbing the corporate ladder to reach your current position.
To advance any further, logic suggests, will take a similar amount of preparation and mental fortitude. To some extent, this is true! You can and should take as much time as you can to build a long-term career plan.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you can’t take steps in the short term to advance your career. Here are three things you can do right now. Like today.
1. Take a think break.
People spend so much time attending to the minutiae of life and work that they lose sight of the big picture. Career planning is a big-picture issue. So do what Bill Gates and former secretary of state George Shultz suggest. That is, take a moment, go somewhere private, and think things through.
Be sure to have no distractions. Get away from staff clamoring for your attention or email pinging in your inbox. Grab a pen and notepad, and walk to a nearby park or quiet café. Spend at least fifteen minutes considering how to take action for your career.
You might have career-boosting ideas that have been pushed aside by the daily grind. Remember to write your ideas down and strategize about them later.
2. Register for a course or conference.
Find and register for a course or conference that will give you new tools for your career.
New knowledge and skills from a course help you do your current job better and might open doors to a new job. Conferences help you keep up with developments in your field, but they also allow you to network with people.
Finding a course or conference in your area is easy, and you will likely be able to register and pay online. For courses, visit the website of a relevant professional association (find a list here).
In addition, check out the continuing education programs at a local college or your alma mater. Or, for a huge selection of conferences, look at sites such as World Conference Alert.
3. Ask your boss or mentor for career advice.
This might feel risky, but your immediate supervisor may be the best person to help you advance your career. He or she has seen your work and knows what you do. And your boss has the connections within the organization to know what abilities and experiences will help you get a promotion.
Emphasize that you are not trying to shirk your current responsibilities or leave the company. Frame your desire for career development as a means of improving your department, not just yourself. Explain that you respect your boss’s expertise and want guidance on how to become a better employee.
If your supervisor is busy and can’t talk to you today, then call your mentor. You don’t have a mentor? Start looking for one. They are invaluable for career improvement.
The bottom line
This three-pronged approach will give you more tools for your larger career development plan. Furthermore, you will have started the habit of devoting a small portion of your day to thinking about your future — and that can reap remarkable results.