So you’ve decided to take a trip. It’s a big summer road trip. You know the kind—where Chevy Chase should be driving. You pack up your bags, load up the SUV, and just drive.
As you’re driving north up the interstate, it strikes you: what are your plans along the way? You have a general idea where you’re going, but what will you do beyond driving? Will you just wait and see what happens? How will you enhance the journey? What will you do once you get there? Good questions to ask.
How many of us jump into our “career SUVs” without a plan and just drive? As a recruiter, I can tell you that this occurs more than you might think; including some pretty high-level people who just liked “the drive” they were on and stuck with it. Most of us, however, are not quite so lucky. Employees jump from job to job, without committing themselves to a destination.
Unless you start to plan ahead and take steps now, you could find yourself at the end of the road with your career, and not be at all where you thought you’d be.
One thing that I see often with great careers, is that a plan was made early on with a chosen destination. Even if that is not always possible, it’s never too late to choose your destination point, take time to complete the necessary steps, and dream big!
If you need help beginning your steps, try thinking with the mindset of a chess player. Planning four to five steps ahead will definitely benefit you, but even better is to think up to 20 moves ahead like some of the greats… yes, 20!
Here are a few opening moves to get you started on the path to your career:
1. Think about what you love and what you want to do!
2. Develop and acquire skills that are valued in your career path.
3. Have a well-written resume. Also, create a portfolio, and document your achievements beyond your resume.
4. Stay focused on your goals.
5. Strengthen your connections and relationships.
6. Set milestones to achieve.
a. Work with people who support you, your growth and goals.
b. Strengthen your weaknesses, and push beyond your comfort zones.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. However, it’s difficult to make a career path (at least in agriculture) a straight line. As I review my 29 years in produce, I still think my most efficient ascent to my end career goal was in the first ten moves.
When you find yourself wanting or needing to move forward in your career (or even start it), think about where and what you want to be doing in the next 10 to 20 years. Choose a destination, and make sure your plans go way beyond just wanting to be financially successful. If you take the time to plan your steps, happiness during your journey will be greater, and the end result will be much closer to what you really want.
Remember, you can keep your goal the same while adjusting your strategies along the way. Be flexible, but stay on that path!
The path I thought I would take, and did take, on my way to my goal of VP of Sales, looked like this (or it can just say Rex’s Journey to VP of Sales):
1. Bird Dog
2. Sales Assistant
3. Sales Coordinator
4. Production Scheduler
5. Outside Buyer
6. FOB Sales – Foodservice
7. Retail Value Added Sales
8. Regional Sales Manager
9. Director of Retail Sales
10. VP of Sales