It’s an important question made especially difficult by today’s organizational demands. Tim Butler, from Harvard Business School, brings some smarts to the party as director of its career development program. In this job climate it’s easy to lose sight of your goals, but you can stay focused.
There are a number of issues that professionals should give some serious thought to today:
How far out should I be looking?
According to Butler, if you’ve got a Master’s of some sort under your belt, you should be looking out from five to seven years. Well, maybe. Even the best companies rarely give more than five years of thought to their strategic thinking. A better focus is to think deeply about the next three years. But keep a clear vision for the next five years. That means if you’re in your twenties or thirties (and have a satisfactory position) you’ll want to keep your actual responsibilities more congruent with your longer term vision.
How do you deal with career limitations?
Most firms are saddling their employees with less flexibility and more work. Complaining about it won’t help. Dig in, but keep your options open and your vision in front of you. When you’re given new responsibilities always ask yourself whether they might provide some unexpected opportunities. There are a lot of opportunities
How do you deal with these roadblocks?
A major benefit for keeping a strong career focus is that it’s easier to find alternative routes when you’re face-to-face with roadblocks. Map them out in advance. Keep both your strategy and development networks up and running and conversing. Talk to people that have significantly different values and outlook than you and your friends.
It’s not easy to stay focused in this economy, but make it an important personal objective.