What actions should be in your career plan?

Actions in your career plan will help you bridge the gap
from where you are now to where you want to be

There's a lot that happens before you write an action plan for your career. 

Firstly you need to identify and set your goals - which has been the topic of earlier blogs such as "5 Fast Tips..setting goals for your career plan". 

Once you have done that - identified what you want, where you are now and the difference between the two - you can develop a plan to get to where you want to be. 

Not surprisingly, the process of working out where you are now and where you want to be and what it requires - is known as a Gap Analysis.

This analysis can provide you with clear guidelines for the development of your action plan. 

Every "gap" provides an opportunity for you to bridge it. 

To make up the difference between where you are now in your knowledge, skills and experience and where you want/need to be. 

Every gap you identify can be addressed with an action, a task - there will be something that you need to learn, practise or do.

A plan of actions for your career will give you a list of what you to need to do and when you need to do them.  

To be useful your action plan should include:

·         specific actions – what you will do

·         time frames – when you will do them

·         measures – how you will know that you’re on track.

Your specific actions could include tasks that will help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to learn. 

For example,  you might identify a skill you want to learn or improve. Start by researching how you can learn this, where training is provided or who you know that can can help you. Set a time frame for the action and a measure of success such as completed the action or found out particular information by a certain date.

Your 'gap' could be to let people know the contribution you are making or the good work you are doing. 

In this case you could; list and quantify your accomplishments, then evaluate who you would like to know about them and how you could communicate these to them in a professional in a 'what's in it for them' way. Decide on your time frame and set yourself targets to complete your actions. (If this action is on your list you might be interested in this earlier blog -  'Self-Promotion: It's not about you')

Other actions for career plans can include making contacts with or expanding your network, obtaining a mentor and appointing a board of advisers. 

Measures may include the number of people you will contact within a specific time frame, the completion of a course or the achievement of a business objective. The key is that once you set these measures, you need to go back and review your progress against them. 

When you write them down you have a specific, measurable and implementable career action plan.

How you document your plan can be as complex or as simple as you want. 

It should be recorded in a way that you find easy to manage. A spreadsheet, a Word document, an app on your Smart Phone or a notebook in the bottom of your handbag - whatever works for you. (To make it more interesting than your usual work projects, perhaps you could use a slightly more glamorous notebook?)
The Career Chick Hot Tip: Set actions, time frames and measures to address gaps in your skills, knowledge and experience.

What actions are in your career plan?

Let's chat...
- Karen

"They" say...

Are "they" right?

Has" anonymous" demonstrated his/her wisdom again?

The reasons like truisms like this are popular is because they are so often, well, true.

It's often used derogatorily to explain away why someone else has done well.

But is it a clue?

Could we meet more people and then become 'lucky' ourselves?

Could we network more?

Let's chat...
- Karen

Why Depth is More Important than the Breadth of your Business Network

Some people measure their networking success by the number
of business cards they collect at functions
Be prepared to develop relationships
with depth in your network

But when push comes to shove and you need advice or help in the future, can you rely on people you met once to help you out? 

To be there for you? To take time from their busy schedule because you need help, advice or information?

To be honest if the only connection you have is a quick handshake, a business card swap and maybe a LinkedIn invitation there really isn't a lot to fall back on.

Alternatively, if you build solid, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet, they are much more likely to support you when you need it. 

Building a network with deep long-term relationships rather than breadth of the number of people you know pays off.

Your network should include people you trust and respect. It’s even better if they’re people you like! And, ideally, they’ll be people who trust, respect and like you, too. 

Deep networks are made from strong, long-term relationships.

Putting time and energy into building and maintaining a network can have a variety of benefits for your Career Development and help you be more successful in your current job, which is ultimately beneficial for your career!

 A strong network can help you:

·         learn new information or skills

·         discover ideas - and enjoy some stimulating discussions

·         find out how to do things better in your organization

·         know who to go to in an organization, and

·         identify future job opportunities and promotions.

For example, the recruitment industry tells us that a significant number of job vacancies are never advertised and that there is a hidden employment market that people access through their networks. So if you don’t have a network to provide you with information, referrals or to let other people know who you are, it limits your career options. 

Deep relationships, built on trust and respect, are necessary to access information, ideas and to learn new skills.
Career Chick Hot Tip: Focus on depth rather than breadth in your networking relationships.

Have you had deep business relationships develop with people you've met as a result of 'Networking Opportunities' ? Would love to hear your stories.

Please share! Let's chat...
- Karen

P.S. This post is an update of an excerpt from the chapter, Network, from my book, "Hot Tips For Career Chicks"

This one action will support your career development

They don't need to meet.

They don't even need to know that they have been appointed to your board of advisors.

But what they will be is very clearly identified, in your mind, as key members of your network that you can develop, or seek to develop, deep relationships with.

These relationships allow you to have a high level of trust when you seek their advice.

Do you have nominations ready for your board?

Let's chat...
- Karen

People's Choice Award Nomination - Best Australian Blogs 2012

Career Chick Chat has been nominated for the Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition run by the Sydney Writers Center (Yipee!)

The People's Choice Award category is now open and if you have enjoyed any of the posts (or more importantly found any of the career tips useful!) I'd really appreciate it if you would vote for Career Chick Chat.

And the best news is that even though this is an Australian award - anyone, from any country can vote (better than American Idol where they hide the voting information from us here in Australia!)

Just click on the Best Australian Blogs 2012 logo below and vote for Career Chick Chat (please). Fortunately the 1,024 (yep, there's a bit of competition) have been listed in alphabetical order...so you don't have to scroll down too far!

People's Choice Award

If you get really excited about voting you can also tweet your support using #bestblogs2012 !

Voting closes 5 pm May 9 Sydney time, which is 2am Central Time in the US and 8 am in London. A bit confusing? Vote Now!

Really appreciate your support!

Many thanks
- Karen

Will Roger's words are as true today....

Are you on the right career track?

Do you know the next steps? And the ones after that?

Is your goal to stay in the same role you are in and be the best that you can be?

How are you going to keep your skills and knowledge current so that you can achieve this?

Do you have a career plan?

Let's chat...
- Karen

12 Tips for more effective emails

According to Royal Pingdom the average corporate user sends and receives 112 emails per day

These are being sent between the 3.146 billion email accounts across the world!

This may be the understatement of the century - but that's a lot of communication to manage - every day.

Particularly when you consider that ever interaction you have is an opportunity to demonstrate the very best of your knowledge, skills and expertise. Or on the other hand, for people to get a negative impression about you or your work.

Don't get me wrong, I love email. It means I can work collaboratively (with people in other states and other countries), provide real-time replies about the work I am doing, find out information I need and basically communicate more frequently and focused on the topic of the email.

The issue we all seem to have (surely, it's not just me?) is in managing the sheer volume of emails and ensuring that they are as effective as they possibly be; communicating what we want to say!

I don't think it is just me because an earlier blog post 5 Fast Tips to clear your inbox is the second highest read post of all time on Career Chick Chat!

Given that we’re already trying to make our emails more effective, here are 12 tips (reminders I’m sure! for better emails:

1. Make the Subject line descriptive - letting the reader know exactly what the email is about. Titles such as "Approval Required for...", "Update on XYZ", "Please advise..." are all pretty good descriptors that allow a reader to know what the email is about before they even open it.

2. Put the most important point at the top of the email. Ask for what you need to ask for or explain what the email is about in the very first sentence. Then continue to provide the additional information you have. The where, when and why. The reason for your request. If you are explicit (but polite!) a reader will have no confusion about the purpose of the email and the required outcome. If they need the rest of the information after the first sentence they will keep reading!

3. Keep it short! A research study, "Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use" by Harald Weinreich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder, and Matthias Mayer found that when reading on the web people spend only an extra 4.4 seconds for every 100 words. So longer is not better when it comes to writing emails.

4. Change the Subject title of an email that is going back and forward so that it is still relevant. Sometimes one email goes back and forward for so long or between so many people that the title is no longer a reflection of the new content. It it's not - change it.

5. Make it easy to read - Use lots of white space and a simple font. Start a new paragraph for every new idea and add a line of white space between each paragraph.

6. Highlight something that is really important in bold or italics - that way if your 'reader' is a 'scanner' what you really need to have read will be seen. 

7. Finish with an auto signature that includes your name, title, division and other contact details so that the recipients knows how to and has a range of options for contacting you.

8. CC with care! If you've been asked to copy someone on a message do so. If you haven't then don't. It clogs up in boxes and can be seen as quite heavy handed by putting pressure on your addressee. If you do want someone else to know the same information - forward it on to them privately with a one line explanation of why you are sending it to them

9. Don't feel obliged to continue an email to multiple people on a message you have received. Short circuit the process and go back to the person who sent you the note and work through the topic one-on-one. Afterwards if you need to you can go back to the people who were copied and advise them of the outcome.

10. Don't play email war games. The opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication by email are many. Many words have many meanings - which means it's not hard to misinterpret what someone is saying. Email can also be quite impersonal so often people will come across a lot blunter than they mean to or are in person. And never reply to an email in anger. If someone sends you a cranky email get on the phone or at least go back to the person to clarify the issue.
11. Delete those pesky scam emails straight away. They clog up your inbox and make it hard to manage the volume of emails you have. Even with all the filters that are applied 19% of all emails to corporate in boxes are still spam. It's like having torn up papers and used coffee cups on your desk -  messy and a distraction. Get rid of them

12. Ring people instead of emailing. I don't know about you but I can certainly talk faster than I can type. Getting on the phone can sometimes be faster, make you stand out from other messages and also give you the opportunity to build some rapport with the other person.  
Hope these reminders help - please share any other tips you have!

Let's chat...
- Karen

Steven Covey's Four Assumptions

Making what is important a priority ensures we focus on and do the most important things.

Knowing what is most important to us is sometimes the tricky bit.

How do you decide?

I found this great short video by Stephen Covey on YouTube where he goes through 4 assumptions to work through.

They might give you some ideas...

What do you think? (That's another good little video from Tom Peters)

Have you got some other tips for you to decide what is important to you? What your priorities will be?

Let's chat...
- Karen

How to work out your priorities (at work)

When you have a deadline or a crisis at work it makes things kind of easy.

Not easy to get it done.

But easy to know exactly what you should be doing.

In these situations it's about the task at hand and surviving when you're really busy (which was the topic of an earlier blog post!) 

Others will be supportive of your focus and (usually) understanding of the fact that other things may have to wait.

But how do you prioritize how to spend your time on a day-to-day basis?

In regular times when you just have requests, tasks, emails, phone calls and texts coming at you from all directions?

Prioritizing what's important is really the only way because a) it's generally agreed that multi-tasking is not efficient due to the time and effort it takes to switch between tasks and b) we are all limited by that pesky little 'there are only 24 hours in a day problem'.

I think that you make a better contribution to your job, organization, business if you do less - well. Rather than lots of things okay.

People think that they want us to do a lot. But when it come to performance appraisals and your professional reputation - you are more likely to be judged as successful by how well you do things rather than how much you do.

Sometimes a process or framework can be helpful to work out priorities - and can also be shared (with your manager, your team, colleagues), if necessary, to explain and gain agreement on how you will be spending your time.

Here are some ideas of how you can work out what your priorities are:

Grab a coffee and write a to-do list.

Not up there as a Noble prize winning idea. But it works.

Taking some time to write a list helps you stop the ideas swirling around in your head - and you can stop worrying that you are going to forget something.

Even more importantly, when you see things written down it often becomes very clear what is most important. Sometimes they are at the top of the list - other times they are buried in between things like 'pick up the dry cleaning' and 'Email so-and-so'.

When the important stuff is written down it often tends to scream out from the page to you.

A quick peruse will often help you decide what you should do. If you need a bit more of a process - go through the list and number what order things need to be done.

And when you are looking at the list, ask yourself, "is there someone else who could/should be doing this?" If there is - ask - nicely!

Don't forget to go back and check things off when they're done.

Most satisfying!

Covey's Urgent/Important Matrix

Steven Covey, author of mega best-seller, '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' developed an urgent versus important matrix that he talks about in regard to the third habit of "Put First Things First."  (Is it just me or does anyone else think this is a bit ironic that this is the 3rd habit?)

I digress, because this is a great tool to map out the activities you have to do by categorizing them as:

  • Urgent and Important - Critical activities that must be completed to a tight timeline. Or that you left to the last minute (avoidable) or that someone else left to the last minute (may be unavoidable).
         Action: do them!
  • Urgent but not Important - basically the day-to-day interruptions. The time thieves of your day.
         Action: Manage to minimize.
  • Important but not Urgent - the important tasks to advance your work, business and professional career.
         Action: Make as make time for these as you can. 
  • Not Urgent and Not Important - distractions.
          Action: Avoid if at all possible. Say 'no' politely.

Rank what you have to do

There's any number of ways that you can rank the importance of what you need to do.

I quite like this simple question for everything on your plate ...

Is it a:
MUST do?
Should do?
nice to do?

Pareto's 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle says that 20% of work/effort/customers (it gets applied in a lot of different situations) produces 80% of the result.

If you can identify what you do that generates most of your return that is a pretty good indication where you should be spending your time.

Ask Your Manager

It may not be within your delegation to make the decision about where you will focus your time. Or you may simply need some guidance.

Either way asking your manager for their feedback and having them help set your priorities involves them in the process (so they will also be agreed on the outcome with you) and provides you with a knowledgeable source of information and feedback.

The time and effort to prioritize can seem like a big investment when you could be busy 'doing'. But the time taken to think and plan will pay off in clearing your mind and sharpening your focus.

I'm just going to cross 'Write blog on setting priorities' off my to-do list. Woo Hoo!

Have you got any other tips for how to work out your work priorities? Please share!

Let's chat...
- Karen