How to Build a Winning Game Plan for Your Career

Research shows those who plan are more likely to succeed. According to this 2017 study by Harvard Business Review, entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16 percent more likely to achieve viability than those who don’t. 

When we set goals for ourselves in our careers, we achieve higher rates of success. Knowing what we want and how we plan to get there is pivotal. That’s where a career game plan comes into play. It is a simple, four-step process providing a clear road map on how to achieve your goals. In the following steps, I will help you first identify what you want and what you are uniquely skilled to do (your purpose statement). Next, we will build goals to support your purpose coming to fruition and brainstorm steps that will guide you in pursuit. 

1. Craft a purpose statement.

Start by getting very clear on what you want. This is summarized best in a concise purpose statement. Think the length of a Twitter post (before it extended its guidelines): 140 characters or less. A strong purpose statement will articulate your passions and unique strengths in a single sentence.  

Reflect on what makes you truly happy and excited by asking these questions: 

  • What types of tasks, meetings or work am I doing on my favorite days? The answer to this question likely yields some sources of your true passions. 
  • What do people say I am naturally good at? This signals your strengths.  
  • What do people ask for my help or advice on? This is a strong indicator of your unique capabilities.

2. Establish goals.

Now, it’s time to build strong goals that will actively fulfill your purpose statement and make it a reality. Set two or three goals—any more than that is too many. With every potential goal, ask yourself, ”How does this help me fulfill my purpose statement?”

You may be familiar with SMART goals. Make sure your goals follow the SMART acronym: 

  • Specific: What specifically will need happen to be able to achieve this goal?
  • Measurable: What numbers will I use to measure the successful achievement of this goal?
  • Attainable: How attainable is this goal in the specified time frame?
  • Relevant: How relevant am I to making this goal happen?
  • Time-bound: When will this goal be achieved?

Once you have a strong set of goals, we’re ready to prioritize how you will achieve them.

3. Prioritize competencies.

Competencies are the skills, behaviors or attributes that define who we become. They range from leadership skills to detail-oriented attributes and communication behaviors. They ensure our ability to achieve our plans and strike a balance between our high-level goals and our purpose statements.

I recommend prioritizing three competencies of focus that have both a high impact and a high improvement rate on your purpose and goals. As a tool, the Nielson Group published a list of soft-skill competencies. It contains more than 100 competencies to choose from and includes descriptions for each. I highly recommend perusing it with your purpose and goals in mind. Select all of the competencies on the list that have an impact, then prioritize them based on your ability to improve upon your goals and purpose.  

4. Determine actions. 

This is the final step to building your winning career game plan. This step is fairly effortless, which is a nice reward for taking the time to invest in a purpose statement, set goals and prioritize competencies. If we have diligently articulated our purpose statement, crafted goals and chosen to focus on the competencies that drive the most positive impact, our tactical plan emerges naturally.  

The beauty of this process is we can break down our goals into a desired time frame. I break mine down every three months and keep a running to-do list on my office whiteboard. Everything that makes the three-month task list supports my long-term purpose and goals.  

Now, you have the process for building your winning career game plan. With every choice you make, you take a step closer to having the career you truly want.

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Julie Kratz is a leadership trainer, speaker and author of two books, Pivot Point: How to Build a Winning Career Game Plan and ONE: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality. After experiencing her own career “pivot point,” Julie developed a process to help women leaders create their own winning career game plans. She is focused on promoting gender equality in the workplace and encouraging women with their “what’s next” moments. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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