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I had a coworker who stayed in their job for 30 years and hated more than 20 years of it. Resentful and tired, this person resumed the routine and never changed jobs or perspective. Seems like a miserable way to spend 20 years of one’s life.
But truth be told, I think a lot of people do this in one way or another. You take a job that your initially excited for, only to blink and find yourself nearing retirement and full of resentment and bitterness. You start to get comfortable and that comfort starts to slowly build the shackles that keep you tied to a job you loathe.
How did we get here?
It’s simple, just not obvious at first. We failed to plan.
Planning is the number one component to get to your goals no matter what they are.
You want to rest next weekend? Plan for doing all of your chores and tasks during the week.
You want to eat in during the week? Plan your meals.
You want to go on vacation? Plan your dates, the flight, the lodging and the budget.
Nothing happens without a plan, period.
So how do we plan our career lives so that we don’t get stuck?
There are endless ways to plan to get your lives going in a trajectory that reaches your goals and makes your hard work worthwhile. But, oftentimes, our plans aren’t complete, and we lose track of where we are and where we need to go. So, I’ve created a road map (sort of) for the plans you should have in place to help you stay in the right direction, meet your career goals, and ultimately avoid the miserable job syndrome altogether.
Here are 5 plans that will help keep your career moving in the right direction, forward:
1- Plan your next 5 year timeline
They always ask what your plan is for 5 years in almost every interview. They ask that question for a reason. And while their reason may not be your reason, you should definitely have a plan for the next 5 years. Think of your goals and dreams and envision where you actually want to be in 5 years.
For those of you that feel that 5 years is a long time and you really don’t need to plan that far ahead, just remember that the years will pass by anyway. Do you want them to pass by and find yourself in the same position that you started in? This is critical to make sure that you keep moving toward your career goals. Success is reached when you are in your dream job, finally looking forward to waking up on a Monday and getting to work. This can’t and won’t happen if you fail to draft a 5 year plan, every 5 years.
Successful people often plan their day to the very minute, it keeps them focused and productive. Apply this theory to your 5-year plan. You should have a detailed, well-thought out plan that describes your monthly, quarterly, and yearly milestones and goals. This will help you stay accountable for your career steps and hopefully keep you motivated to keep growing and moving forward.
2- Budget for your life
Budgeting is seriously one of the single best ways to plan for anything in your life. If you budget well enough, you’ll be able to save, be debt-fee, invest, and be financially secure. That financial stability not only gives you peace of mind, it gives you options. So if you happen to start feeling stuck, you can leave your job, find another one, or take some time off until you find a better job, without feeling the money pinch. It by far, gives you the most freedom and means to change your career when you’re financially secure.
If you’re stuck on how to create a budget, or have created a budget that isn’t currently working for you, I’ve written several posts to help you create the perfect budget for you. Be sure to read them here, here, and here.
3- Plan by networking
Networking consistently gives you options to move to other jobs when you’re seeking growth. Having a network of people in your field helps you plan several exit routes and its worth having. Many of us are just putting our heads down at work, don’t go to work functions because we want to be home, and rarely step outside for lunch.
Take every opportunity to engage with others and get to know them while showing them your best self. Every conversation is a potential interview, so never let a conversation pass by without making a good impression on colleagues, bosses, and others that you come across. Keep networking as a major component of your plan.
4- Always plan your next move
When you walk do you know where your feet are going? When you’re walking, are you walking toward something or someone? Yes, naturally when we’re moving forward, we know where we are going. And we generally don’t stand still for no reason. Either we are waiting for something or someone, or we have reached our destination.
It’s not that different in our careers. Although many of us stand still for a long time, the idea is that we keep moving. We stay in a destination for 2-3 years and start “walking” to our next destination. We shouldn’t stay in the same place for too long. Imagine standing on your feet in the same place for hours on end. Aren’t you going to be tired? Bored? Aren’t you going to start getting grumpy? Sure! It’s bound to happen.
It’s the same idea with staying the same job for years. Being in the same place in your career without moving forward will always result in complacency, which then results to dissatisfaction over time. And that inevitably leads to resentment and bitterness.
So keep on moving and plan to move every 2-3 years.
5- Keep learning
If you want to keep moving forward, you’ll need to consistently learn or refine your skills so you can have the qualifications to jump to the next opportunity. This also takes planning. Learning a set of skills that directly align with your next career move will enhance your resume and your chance of success in that position.
Check job listings for the next job you want to apply for and find out what qualifications you are currently lacking. Then, get to work to learn those skills so that when you start applying, you have what the employer needs.
Learning is going to give you the key to keep walking toward your dream career. It is the fuel that keeps your momentum going. Don’t stop learning…ever. The minute you do is the minute you’ve stopped walking. And you already know where that leads as I mentioned above.
At the end of the day, no one plans to have a soul sucking job, let alone keep it for 30 long, miserable years. And while many posts talk about side hustles, I realize that not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, and some of you prefer to work for a larger company for the stability, benefits, and other perks you might be enjoying.
So, this is post is for you, the person who likes being a part of a larger organization. This is how you can still make it to your dream job, without having to risk it all and start your own business. Use these 5 plans to keep moving forward, progressing, and making your dreams happen.
Today is the day, sit down and write some of these plans out and change your career trajectory. Change your timeline and change your retirement story. Retire from a place you love doing what you love, rather than counting the days to retirement when you’re 30.