Focus on your goal

Charting a course of action is key to developing a career plan

Having a personal career plan is essential to surviving the merger, acquisition and spin-off activity present in today’s workplace. What may be good for the business or your employer may-or may not-be good for you. How do you know if you are where you need to be now? The answer can be found in evaluating your career plan, your blueprint for action (see “Reevaluating Your Career Plan,” Powerplay, November 1999). Once you’ve determined where you are in your career and where you want to go, designing an action plan with goals must be next.

Even with a clear goal in mind, it’s not always easy to stay focused, especially when enticing offers that are not in line with your objectives come your way. When do you decide to veer from your course and when do you hold the line? What steps can be taken to assure that you will make progress? To be focused means being prepared for the next move you want to take.

First, look beyond your current, narrow job description. What are the skills you really use to perform your daily duties? Which ones do you find most challenging and enjoyable? Which skills will be most necessary in the position you want next? Write them down. You may even want to write your version of a job description for that next position. Then, make sure you have the qualifications-from education to experience-for that move. If you like your current workplace environment and that next position exists or can be established there, great. But sometimes changing positions may mean changing companies.

Burnetta Williams has always dreamed of becoming the treasurer of a Fortune 500 company. While she hasn’t quite achieved her dream, Williams is working toward it. She began her career at the Equitable in New York City as an investment analyst after graduating with a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Williams knew it was important to be well rounded if she were to reach her goal. So, when an offer came 17 years ago from Federal Express in Memphis, Tennessee, to work on the other side of the table as a manager in debt financing, she saw it as a step toward her goal and left Equitable to join FedEx.

Over the past 10 years, Williams has moved through a series of mid-level to executive management positions. Currently, she is assistant treasurer and staff director of FDX-the parent company of FedEx. Now her responsibilities include all corporate finance activities and banking relationships. “Some have called me single-minded about treasurer’s work, and I guess I am,” admits Williams, “but focus has to be the key.”

Every so often you need to ask yourself, “Do I really enjoy what I am doing?” If the answer is negative or uncertain, then you need to rethink your goals.

Laying out the steps you need to take to get where you want to go is the key element in your action plan. Should you take short-term assignments in

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