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Career plan template

I have a closet obsession with creating new healthy recipes. I get so wrapped up in it I black out and end up with loads of food and not enough people to eat it. Despite that, it’s therapeutic.

Years ago when I was working like a dog, I never had time to cook, let alone come up with new recipes. I was on the road all the time; if I had time to eat, it’d be a challenge to find something healthy on a menu. That meant a lot of room service salad. Doesn’t that sound kinda gross? I’ll just be over here crunching on my salad in bed if you need me…

I didn’t even know this was a hobby until I took some control over my schedule. Before I took stock of my life, I gave all my focus to my job. I loved working hard and seeing the results of that work.

For a competitive person, it’s hard to find balance when being the best is a priority. (tweet this!)

But let me tell you this, from someone who’s been to burn out and back: you can still accomplish without sacrificing the rest of your life.

Many of my clients come to me to figure out what to do next- to navigate a new leadership position, to get a promotion, or to transition careers. A part of the process is to commit to a 3 year career plan so they can take action now that will help them to reach those goals. Making conscious decisions around your career is the only way to avoid hating your job.

I use this Career Plan Template  with my Premium one-to-one clients – here it is for you to steal!

The Mindset

A common saboteur to achieving goals is the idea of waiting for the perfect time to make changes to your lifestyle or job.

It has you fearing change and thinking: “I’ll go for that promotion when…,” or “I’ll look for another job when…” or “I’ll be able to make an impact as a leader once…”

Well, timing is a slippery little sucker. If you try to control it, you’ll likely be let down.

Opportunities don’t show up when it’s convenient; we have to be willing to trust in their timing. (tweet this!)

While it’s safe to stay put, change leads to growth. Maybe that means a different job or a new company. Or maybe it’s being a stronger leader or a better version of yourself. Either way, change is a good thing.

Change quote

The Theory

Mapping out a career plan is about finding balance between our goals and what may come up along the way; finding the spot between the rigid and the elusive.

Often we bite off more than we can chew when we set goals. We want to dream big and to reach for the stars. And amen to that!

However, we’ve got to start somewhere, and the somewhere is less glamorous. It’s mapping out the first steps that’ll move us toward those stars and that can involve hard work. These first steps are usually where people give up.

The key is having an idea of where you want to go and who you want to be, being open to what may pop up and taking small concrete steps toward those goals now.

The Details

I don’t believe in long term plans. I think it’s great to have aspirations but anything too concrete seems to beg for a monkey wrench.

My theory is to have a career plan that’s no more than 3 years out (1 year if that makes you feel better). Life can change, new opportunities may come your way, your priorities and family may evolve during that time. Anything longer begins to tempt fate which leads to self-criticism and a feeling of failure. No thanks.

And besides, those kind of plans can instantly weigh us down and instead of motivating make us feel stuck. We don’t want that. Keep it easy and continue updating it every couple years.

Use my Career Plan Template to begin your career plan.

Here’s how it works:

  • Begin by visualizing your ideal work situation in detail. This will likely involve your ideal lifestyle as well. Write it all down!
  • As you move down the sheet, you’ll compare your current work situation with that ideal. This is a great eye opener. I recommend considering your priorities as you work through this section.
  • Next, jot down your career and personal goals for the next 3 years. As you jot these down, make sure they’re SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible).

You’ll notice a section on your personal and health goals. Fill those out since they’ll be demanding your time and energy too.

  • Now you’re going to take the goals you’d like to focus on and ask yourself why you want to achieve them and what obstacles may get in the way. This is to make sure what you’re dedicating your life to is a focus for the right reasons.
  • Once you’re clear, begin to fill out the steps necessary to achieve that bigger goal. Make these small, actionable items. Adding a commitment date is the best way to hold yourself accountable.

I believe in the concept of consciously designing your career. But if you’re too focused on one outcome, you may miss out on outside-the-box opportunities and the chance to create your own options.

The balance is truly between having your sights set on a destination, fuzzy or otherwise, but being open to what comes your way. With your head down and your blinders on, you may be able to climb up, up, up but once you get there, you want to know you’ve made the right choices for you and who you want to be.

Your turn: when have you set a goal and reached it? What was your secret? Let us know in the comments below!

* If one of your goals is to up your leadership skills by getting a promotion, being a better leader or simply leading your life, my leadership assessment tool, Discover Your Signature Style, will help get clear on your leadership potential and how you can use it to get ahead. Be sure to enter your name and email below to get the inside scoop on the launch (psst: it’s early September!) .

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  • Stacey August 25, 2014, 8:32 pm

    So many gems in this post! Mindset is critical to everything in life and I believe that has always allowed me to reach goals that at one time seemed unattainable or pushed me too far out of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, I don’t have a secret to share, but I firmly believe that the energy you put out into the Universe comes back to you. When I am open, and receive subtle messages or signs from things that are much bigger than myself or my goals, I make sure to listen and follow the signs that lead me to gradual success!

  • farah August 25, 2014, 10:47 pm

    I think you definitely have to have an interest – it can’t be just for the money, because there are a tonne more ways to make a lot more money than having a job you don’t like but pays well. Whatever you do has to be inline with your values. I completed a marathon a couple of year back. The secret? It’s obvious. Train, practice, measure, believe, don’t give up.

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 8:02 pm

      Great point. Every small act will be so tiresome if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or are doing it for the reasons (to you). Thanks Farah!

  • Carlaquarius August 26, 2014, 2:25 pm

    I agree, Anne, the commitment date seals the deal! Even when I just have a commitment “month”, somehow the pieces fall together in my time frame.

    Thanks for the tips! :)

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 8:00 pm

      I so agree.That accountability is annoying when we first put it on paper but it works in getting us to commit and take action!

  • Debashish August 26, 2014, 2:58 pm

    Nice post, Anne.
    I’ve used a similar template. Even though I didn’t get to the goals 100%, it was better than not having attempted at all. In particular, my goal of making money online. I didn’t make the amount I set down in my goals. But I did get over my fear of “will I ever be able to make money online”.
    Another metric I’ve found guides my career decisions quite well is Enjoyment. If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, I can’t keep doing it for long. My goal with my career is to build with enjoyment as a qualifier, for almost all the action steps I take.

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 7:59 pm

      You make a great point. It’s like Danielle Laporte says: how do you want to feel WHILE going after your goal. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Lisa August 27, 2014, 12:11 am

    This is loaded with words of wisdom! About 2 months ago I set a financial goal in my work and smashed it. My secret was putting into practice all the manifesting tools I knew – listening to subliminals, asking myself the question ‘wouldn’t it be cool if?’ to get the ball rolling and clearing all the blocks that came up in the meantime. Faith + belief are also an essential ingredient. And you are so right with the practical aspect. I took the steps needed to make the goal work. There’s no point dreaming of it, if you’re not going to try and make it happen too.

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 7:58 pm

      THIS is loaded with wisdom! I’m now inspired to get back to my plan so I can add your question and manifesting to it. Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa!

  • Beth August 27, 2014, 2:15 am

    I always cringe when I get the “where do you see yourself in five years?” question during interviews (I mean, really, who can answer that? Life is unpredictable!). I love that your plan is shorter, flexible, and factors in lifestyle as well.

    To answer your question, whenever I have set a goal and reached it, it’s because I wanted it for more than a superficial reason. So then it was easier to stay motivated to keep showing up and doing the work.

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 7:56 pm

      Thanks for this, Beth. Great point- when you really want it and you’ve thought about WHY, it’s easier to achieve. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Eli August 27, 2014, 2:42 am

    I love the idea of a 3 year plan, but I just can’t think that far ahead. I’m going to start with a 1 year plan, and add to it once I figure it all out!

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 7:55 pm

      I get that. A lot of my clients prefer smaller bites too- it still works to keep you on track. Good luck!

  • Beth K .Bedbury August 27, 2014, 2:17 pm

    I am so horrible at planning for years. Since I started only doing a year at a time it feels much better and it got even better when I gave myself permission to modify the yearly plan at anytime.

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 7:55 pm

      Giving yourself permission to modify…nicely said.

  • Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin August 27, 2014, 2:47 pm

    AWESOME post, Anne. We are on the same page about mapping out goals. I’m going to do this for myself this week. Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne Omland August 27, 2014, 7:54 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth! And good luck with setting your goals…wait, I need to do it again too!

  • brenda August 27, 2014, 10:21 pm

    Anne, great tips for career and life! In my former career, which was luxury retail management, I found I reached all my goals by #1 – working hard #2 asking for what I wanted/needed. When I was younger, I always felt that as long as I worked hard, the company will just give me what I need. Well, the world doesn’t really work that way.

    • Anne Omland August 28, 2014, 12:03 pm

      Yes- that’s so true. I felt the same way. Being able to know what you want and know how to ask for it make all the difference. Thanks Brenda!

  • Amber August 29, 2014, 7:12 pm

    Great post. Totally agree that we can’t wait for the perfect time, we need to be open and keep moving forward. Looking forward to trying out your template.

    • Anne Omland August 31, 2014, 4:16 pm

      Let me know what you think of it, Amber. Thanks!

  • april August 30, 2014, 5:11 am

    “Opportunities don’t show up when it’s convenient; we have to be willing to trust in their timing.” so very true, anne. and so easy to forget. and i have been trying to sharpen my skills at recognizing opportunity when it does appear! it doesn’t always look like what you’re expecting. thank you for your insight.

    • Anne Omland August 31, 2014, 4:15 pm

      Thanks April!

  • April August 31, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Great template Anne along with great advice as always!! Thank you for sharing so generously!!

    • Anne Omland September 2, 2014, 8:10 pm

      Thanks April!

  • Lacy September 1, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Great visualization exercise!

    • Anne Omland September 2, 2014, 8:10 pm

      Thanks Lacy!

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