By Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com
Whether your preferred destination is the executive suite or simply the nearest exit from your current position, don’t let your job take you aimlessly down any path. In fact when it comes to career planning, don’t think in terms of “jobs” at all, says corporate transitions expert William Bridges, Ph.D. Instead he suggests building your career plan on “doing the work you’re best at for the employers who need it.”
In his book, Creating You & Co. Bridges writes, “Career planning needs to be a process very similar to the strategic business planning within a small start-up company that is trying to capitalize on changes in its market.”
He offers the following advice for doing just that:
1. Identify Your D.A.T.A.
Position yourself not as a job applicant, but instead as the best way to get something done, solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. To do this, you need to identify and understand your “D.A.T.A.,” which are your Desires, Abilities, Temperament and Assets, and parlay that information into a workable career plan.
2. Find Your Market
Explore what market your D.A.T.A. best prepares you to serve. Look around for the unmet needs and work that needs doing in your company, industry or profession; find the biggest problem your employer or prospective employer faces for which your D.A.T.A. is the solution. Stop thinking like an employee or job applicant and start thinking like an opportunity-minded vendor, scanning the market for work that needs doing.
3. Create Your “Product”
Bridges defines a product as something that solves the client’s problem, confers a benefit on the client, produces the outcome the client wants, or adds value missing in other comparable products. Review your D.A.T.A. and the unmet needs or unexploited possibilities in a market you know well. Where do they intersect? That’s where you can create a marketable product. Make sure your product reflects what you desire, makes the best of your abilities, will fit and benefit from your temperament, and will draw upon your assets.
4. Understand Your Client’s Needs
Think of your employer or prospective employer as a client and assess their needs. Who is this client and what does he or she need? Who are the client’s customers? What does the client need to satisfy the customer? What is the customer looking for? How could I help the client satisfy the customer more completely?
5. Make Your Case
Make your case for why you are the solution. How will your ideas solve the problem or exploit the possibility? How are they better than other ways to do those things? Why should the client listen to you? Reframe your career as a business story and assemble the resources you need to make your case believable.
6. Develop Your Organization
Remember, you are no one’s employee; you’re CEO of You & Co. To make sure you satisfy your clients and continue to grow your business, learn to wear the following hats: marketing, product development, operations, customer service, sales, information management, time management and planning.
Bridges says there is no one path to the goal you are seeking, citing a British Telecom study that found four patterns among successful entrepreneurs:
- The Networkers, who parlay their contacts and friendships into “opportunities” that they then exploit.
- The Past Masters, who are extremely good at something and build a product of such quality that clients seek it out.
- The Charmers, who have such great personal style and powers of persuasion that they talk their way through to clients.
- The Hunters, who know everything about their clients and all the strategies they need to catch them.
Each path represents different abilities and temperaments; each is based on different desires and assets. “Whichever is your own natural path, follow it,” Bridges writes. “All paths lead to the summit.”