Planning is a crucial part of Managing your career and Marketing yourself. This section shows how to use planning techniques to help set and achieve personal career objectives. This is illustrated by an example.
The planning cycle
When looking for a new job opportunity or wanting to improve a particular skill, making and keeping to a plan will help you achieve your goal more efficiently than leaving everything to fate. As you begin a new research project you have aims and a plan. Periodically, you review progress against initial objectives and amend your plan as necessary. So it is with personal development.
If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you arrive?
Create a manageable plan
Once you have identified what you want to change (eg your job) or improve (eg time management skills), you need fully to think through your approach to making the change. Break down your overall goal into smaller, more manageable activities. There are many different methods for personal development, but put simply:
- Identify what is stopping you from achieving your goal or things that concern you
- Identify what will help you achieve your goal
- Identify the resources which might help you
- Set some deadlines.
To make sure you improve or succeed in your chosen areas, set targets and regularly review progress. Make these targets SMARTE:
Specific: in both meaning and focus. Be precise about what you will do, who you will contact, what information you will seek.
Measurable: so that you know when you are achieving progress and can declare success.
Advantageous: what's in this for you? If you can see no personal advantages, don't waste your time; you won't be seriously motivated towards success.
Realistic: If the target is too big, break it down into smaller steps that are not so daunting; you can get feedback to help you do this. Setting development targets in this way will, through experience, gradually improve your ability to manage your own self-development and learning.
Timescale: set deadlines and 'milestones', times when you will sit down and reflect on and review your progress.
Evidence based: so you can demonstrate you have achieved your objectives.
With acknowledgement to 'The Art of Building Windmills', Dr Peter Hawkins, 1999, ISBN 0953598004
Goal: To use networking to improve job prospects in a field unrelated to my doctorate
This example looks at a career development opportunity - using networking to improve job prospects. Think about how you could use this framework to develop a plan in line with your own career objectives.
1. Identify what is stopping you from achieving your goal or things that concern you
- Don't know anyone who works in this area
- No idea what to ask people about their jobs
- Can't think why people would help me
- Is this a realistic job for me?
2. Identify what will help you achieve your goal
- By talking with people in this field I will be able to find out more about the skills they want and check that my skills match
- Because this is a change in direction for me, networking will really help to make a personal impression and allow me to sell my skills.
- I will offer to keep the people who help me informed of my progress: it will help me stay motivated.
3. Identify the resources which might help you
Identify people to talk to
- Careers service - lots of employers visit them
- Ask my family and friends (and supervisor) if someone works in this area or has any contacts
- Check destination lists of former students for contacts
- Alumni Office - they might have a list of former graduates who are willing to talk to current students (also ask the careers service).
Ask the right questions
- Ask the careers service for help
- Research effective networking on this website and other careers sites
- Make a list of what I would want to tell someone if they were interested in being a research student - this might suggest some questions
- Read recruitment brochures-- make a list of what I want to know that isn't in them
- Look at the recruitment information and application forms-- what do I need to know to complete these successfully?
Why would people help me?
- They might be recruiting - have a good CV ready to show people
- If they don't usually recruit doctoral graduates, they might want to know more about the skills I have that are relevant
- They might want to improve their links to the university -- ask the careers service if they have links with the companies I want to talk to
- When I contact them, ask what they might want to get out of my visit or ask at the end of the interview if I can help them.
Am I being realistic?
- Look at profiles of employees in brochures and on the web to see if anyone with my background has been successful in this industry
- Check out the postgraduate destination statistics at the careers service to see what previous doctorates in my field have done
- Make a list of the skills these employers look for and draw up evidence from my background to check my suitability.
4. Set some deadlines
- Find out if there are any networks I can tap into - visit or call careers service and alumni office
- Call home and see if anyone knows someone working in this area
- Talk to friends, supervisor, anyone I can think of about this - see if they have any contacts
- Search on the web for advice --- maybe email a relevant careers site to ask for help
- Start to draw up questions I want to ask
- Get in touch with my friendliest contact - ask if they would be willing to have conversation or arrange a visit
- If I have not been successful in identifying anyone, go back to careers service and see if they know of any events which might lead to new contacts
- Review progress - have I arranged any visits or interviews? How many names do I have? If I have arranged or carried out visits, write letters to thank my contacts
- Widen my net if I need to - Student Industrial Society (SIS) or equivalent, local Chamber of Commerce, professional bodies?
- Thank everyone who has helped - send a positive summary of my progress and ask for any other suggestions for action.
This goal looks achievable and satisfies all the conditions of being SMARTE.
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