Want Career Management Advice? Figure Out What You Want.

By: Kyle Tothill

“What do you want?” a simple question answered far too often with responses like, “I want a job where: I can grow, the company is stable, the money is better or a place where the boss is nicer, etc” or worse is answered by, “I don’t know, that’s why I am here.” Sadly, most of the responses I hear don’t really answer my question.

This simple question is generally the first one that I ask almost every candidate that I interview, from C-level to entry level.  From my perspective, their answer is the ultimate measure of how dedicated someone is to changing jobs and how smart they are about being in control of their professional destiny.  What I have learned is that the great candidates know and have thought through what they want, and meeting with me is very much a part of their plan. I measure that response very carefully because it helps me to determine who is worth spending time with and who will stand out to my clients.

In my opinion, job seekers all too often don’t think strategically about their careers, which locks them in a tactical spiral on a road to anywhere, leaving luck and good fortune as the directors of their professional fate.  Remember back in elementary school when someone asked what you wanted to be when you grew up?  For me it was a sales guy, others gave more normal answers: Veterinarian, Doctor, Policeman, Fireman and Nurse. Life was simple and structured then; you had a very simple vision for your future life.  The answer represented a self projection that was visual in nature and socially driven by what surrounded us.  For most of us that went to college this concept was even more developed as we chose a school, then a major and mostly driven by a more refined vision of how we envisioned our lives to be after we graduated with a more complete set of criteria like: compensation, aptitude, job availability, personal interests, etc.

What I have seen in my 14 years of recruiting is that somehow this simple concept gets lost on most of us several years after graduation or entering the workforce.  Sure, we may still be in our chosen field or have changed slightly after entering the work force but the transition to “Real Life” has eroded or clouded that refined vision.  This happens for multiple reasons like, marriage, children, success, failure, just trying to pay the bills and simply incurring adult life responsibilities.

It is my opinion and firm belief that before one can set out to change jobs or transform their career, they must reestablish a new vision or desire for their life, and develop a structure or plan to obtain it.   Below I have listed 5 simple steps to reestablish the Vision and thus regain control of your professional destiny.

  1. Evaluate where you are versus any earlier vision you may have set for yourself.  How have you done compared to that original vision? Where are you versus where you wanted to be professionally?  Have you met your financial earnings goals?  Are you living the type of lifestyle that is satisfying to you?
  2. Reset your vision for your life for the next 5-10 years.    Ask yourself, what you want from a lifestyle and professional accomplishment perspective.  How you will define success? e.g. – “I want to live in a bigger house with better material things, I want to send my children to private school, I want to be a manager or move up in management, I want to be a recognized as a leader or executive, etc.”
  3. Find the delta between achieving your vision and your current path or trajectory.  Does my current career path allow me to meet my new lifestyle professional vision(s)?  e.g. - Can I make enough money achieving career success in my current profession or company to achieve those goals?
  4. Define the strategic plan, set your career goals as a means to an end.  Think critically about the gaps and define the steps that you need to take to realize your vision.  A job is a means to an end; it should be viewed as such. A career is a strategic plan and is the pathway to ensure success and complete your vision. Define the next step.
  5. Set the plan and put it in action.  Define your strengths and skills gaps needed to take the next step.  Put pressure on your current employer to help you advance or look to the outside job market to satisfy your next move.  If you have to go outside your current employer to take the next logical step, set criteria for your search and define the tactical objectives that are part of the bigger plan.  This is something that you should own and should be something that you can clearly articulate to any recruiter, friend, colleague or future employer. Trust me; if you can tell them what you want, you are much more desirable than someone who can't.