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What’s the value of a career plan for entrepreneurs?

Many people build a successful career and then claim they never had a career plan. You might assume that means you don’t need such a plan. What you are not hearing is the many people who also never had a plan and, as a result, didn’t reach dizzy heights of success but meandered through their career and found themselves dissatisfied.

It’s true that the world of work is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous at the moment. All you can really count on is change. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan your career path and plan for your future.

Entrepreneurs need a plan, and it has to be flexible. A plan is a framework to build upon, it sets out your goals and aspirations for the future. If it is set in stone, it’s not a plan, it’s a commandment. That’s not what you need. Plan but be prepared to flex, to adjust, accommodate, compromise and perhaps even to change direction, change the plan, even change the career path you originally chose.

Identify objectives

Entrepreneurs need to think in terms of short-term goals and objectives which lead towards your long-term career path planning. Your short-term goals will relate to longer-term objectives and overall career plan. Objectives need to be realistic and flexible in terms of delineating your career plan but be ambitious too; you won’t climb high unless you aim high.

So, start by identifying the skills and experiences that will help you achieve your objectives. Take the time for some serious reflection and self-assessment. A career MOT, and plan to close any gap between where you are and where you want to be. Start with two key things:

  • What’s important to you? Be honest with yourself and remember your sense of self has to do with what you want to become, not just what you are now.
  • What motivates you and what it is you enjoy doing and are good at? Ask yourself what are my strengths, my values? Where do I belong? What is my contribution?

Network for success

You need to ensure your network knows of your short- and longer-term objectives. Networking is crucial for career success and you need to make time to build and cultivate your network of contacts. This is not about job search but is really about market intelligence; use your network as your eyes and ears in the marketplace. Network with other founders and business owners. To do that, you need to add value as networking is about reciprocity, so look for ways to help people in your network.

As an entrepreneur, think about your personal brand strength. Do you have advocates within your company? Do people recommend you; are you known in the marketplace? Successful career planning is built on self-awareness, so think about your strengths as a key part of your personal brand.

Review your ongoing learning. Is there anything you would like to change or improve or add to your skillset? Acquiring experience and skills will add strength to your CV, while demonstrating your drive and enthusiasm and commitment to your career. Your network may be able to help you identify opportunities or put you in touch with people who can advise or help.

Plan to succeed

Taking charge of your career is an imperative, entrepreneurs need to market yourself as a product and campaign accordingly. You should see your career as a million-pound project and manage it accordingly. Effective career planning allows the mapping of a personalised career path enabled by contacts, peers, mentors, and colleagues.

A career plan based on your preferences, strengths and values ensures maximised performance and long-term goal alignment. If you are able do the things you love, then you are more likely to be happy at work, working to the best of your ability, and learning as you go.

In essence, you need clarity around what is important to you and ensure your personal values are aligned with your work and other commitments. Unless you happen to buy a winning lottery ticket, as an entrepreneur, you are going to be running your business and working at your career for the next few decades, so being a productive worker, effective performer and valued leader are important. Plan to make the most of your career.

Focus on career development

A recent piece by the Harvard Business Review looked at four common challenges that get in the way of personal growth. They categorize them as when, who, what, and where challenges. You need to think and act creatively to overcome these challenges and invest in your career development.

Change is inevitable

During lockdown many people re-evaluated what they want from work. The job for life is long gone and the traditional career ladder has been replaced by the career lattice – characterised by non-linear career moves where progression goes beyond promotion and allows people to develop in different directions.

Personal career development is an imperative rather than a nice-to-have. Don’t allow the demands of the day-to-day to take precedence over growth, improvement, and investment in your future. Failure to spend time on personal development decreases career resilience and in the face of economic uncertainty is short-sighted.

Career development challenges

You may experience a combination of two, three, or even all these challenges at the same time.

The “when” challenge: I’ll concentrate on career development when I have time. The risk is that those day-to-day concerns never recede enough for you to find the time. Make the time for addressing some self-coaching questions on what you want to achieve.

The “who” challenge: I don’t have anyone helping me develop my skills. The risk in feeling you are dependent on others for help is self-sabotage; you are responsible for your career. Do some networking and increase your support network, establish a group with the shared purpose to support each other in development.

The “what” challenge: I’m not sure what I want to develop. The risk is you will never make a start, if you don’t plan for success, your likelihood of success decreases. Distinguish what you need to know from what’s nice to know, as well as what’s relevant to your current role and what might be relevant for future roles.

The “where” challenge: There are no career development opportunities in my workplace. The risk is you will lose motivation; you need to look for opportunities and make opportunities. Don’t let circumstances hold back your development, look to unlock new possibilities. Identify an internal opportunity that you want to pursue and look for ways to achieve that outcome.

Aim for development and growth

Appreciating in value as an employee entails a proactive approach to career management and building networks to prepare for change and disruption.

Manage your career more effectively by paying attention to three key elements:

  • Knowing why: Understanding your motivation for working. Being clear on your values and what drives job satisfaction for you.
  • Knowing how: Being aware of the strengths, skills and knowledge you bring to your work and what you enjoy doing.
  • Knowing whom: Making your network aware of your career ambitions, investing in that network, and ensuring there is consistency between what you are trying to achieve and what people say about you when you’re not in the room aka your personal brand.

About the author

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy; and Executive and Career Coach. Voted #15 Most Influential U.K. HR Thinker 2022 by HR Magazine.  For more information, please visit www.10Eighty.co.uk.

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lizsebag/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/10Eightyteam

Liz Sebag-Montefiore