Fresh Start – Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

September 6th, 2011

This weekend the temperature in our neck of the woods plummeted, and suddenly it was Autumn. Despite what the calendar says, to me the start of the new year always coincides with the start of the school year. Although it’s been (unspecified number of) years since I was in school full-time, I still get that rush of excitement that comes from preparing for a new year – buying the right supplies, picking out the wardrobe, deciding on courses, preparing to meet old friends and renew summer-lapsed friendships. In fact I spent the last few weeks updating my strategic business plan and refining the services and programs that I will be offering to my clients this year.

Whether you are running your own business, freelancing, looking for a job or in a steady career, September is a great time to take stock and make an annual strategic plan for your career.

Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

  • Do an annual retrospective: what worked for you, career-wise, over the past year?  What accomplishments are you particularly proud of? What obstacles were you able to overcome? What kudos did you receive? What didn’t work so well? What feedback did you receive that made you sit up and take notice? What parts of your career feel stagnant, or worse, toxic? What steps do you need to take to further the successes, overcome the obstacles, and ensure that professional development needs are addressed?
  • Define career goals for the coming year: What do you want to accomplish professionally over the next 12 months? What can you do, and should you do at work to move your career ahead? What can you do, and should you do, outside of work hours to move your career ahead?  Is it time to make a move, and if so, do you have a clear idea of your most logical next career step?
  • Update your career marketing material: If somebody asked you for a copy of your resume, would you be able to give them one? Do you know which of your accomplishments make you most marketable in today’s job market?
  • Update your industry knowledge: Do you know the emerging trends and industry dynamics that are most likely to impact your company, your clients and your career this year? Do you know who the thought leaders are in your field, and where to find them?
  • Refresh your network: Do you have a database of contact information for your network? Are you keeping it up to date? When was the last time you exercised your networking muscles (they go stale pretty quickly if you don’t use them on a regular basis)? do you have lapsed contacts that need to be renewed? Which five to ten people would you like to catch up with, and what is the best time/place to get this done? Are you a member in name only of your professional association? What industry and professional events are coming up this year that you should make a point of attending?
  • Review your IRL image: Do a wardrobe check – are there missing buttons, frayed seams? Are there favourite pieces that really should retire to the great donation heap in the sky?  Does your makeup and hairstyle make you look tired or dated? Have somebody take a picture of you from behind – are you comfortable with what you see? Are you a member of a gym in name only?
  • Review your online image: What about your online image? If somebody searches your name online, will they get an up-to-date impression of who you are and what you have to offer? Do you have a profile in ZoomInfo, Pipl, Does your LinkedIn profile reflect where you are today in your career?

Create an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

Using the above information, define specific goals and action items for the coming year. Formalize them in your calendar with reminders, deadlines and deliverables. Pace yourself and prioritize, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. If you are having trouble getting started, consider working with a career coach who can help to get you on the right track.

    Whether it’s time for radical change or incremental progress, creating an annual strategic plan for your career can help to ensure that you don’t get stuck in a rut and continue to have the knowledge, skills, networking connections and professional reputation to keep you marketable and in demand.


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    Meet Karen Siwak

    An award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions, and she is passionate about empowering clients with the tools, strategies and confidence to take control of their career search. Read more...

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