Monday, August 23, 2010
Your Career and You..."Always Have a Plan"
I had lunch today with one of my PR superstars from my adjunct teaching days. I've tracked her progress from the day she graduated and never cease to be amazed at what can be accomplished with a little determination and a lot of planning.
Amanda has been been working at a Boston-area PR firm since graduation and, from my observations over lunches and occasional conversations, is doing very well. Maybe not rising through the ranks as quickly as she would like, but she has racked up a pretty impressive track record there.
What I particularly like about our conversations is my awareness that she's always thinking ahead...not wondering so much "what's next?"; more like "will this path that I'm considering get me where I want to go and does it make sense?"
I don't think it can be said frequently or loudly enough: "Have a plan!"
I am constantly prodding my students at Curry College, particularly those who are concentrating in Public Relations, to do some self-analysis and figure out, at least in general, where they would like to be in 10 or 15 years.
I know that seems like a lifetime for most of these young people. But Amanda has now been out for five years, and the days/weeks/months have flown by like (to use an old southernism) "greased lightning."
Amanda has a plan. Right now, it's pretty general and very long-range. But she has a sense of where she wants to be years from now. And she has an equal sense of what she needs to know, do, and learn to stay on track for that goal. And she is very good about testing ideas on others, to get feedback and guidance.
She's very carefully assembling all the blocks to build that future, and I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to watch from the sidelines as she progresses.
The nice thing about this sort of "pre-planning" is that you are able to set standards that you know you have to meet to move on to the next step...you know what you need to do or where you need to be next to keep moving.
I just wish I had been that organized and focused when I was her age! Engineering to English to Business Management to Public Relations. Oh yeah, great planning!
These young, future professionals are graduating into a world of intense competition where their peers, armed with college degrees with stratospheric grade-point levels and multiple internships, are vying ferociously for a scarce resource at this particular point in time...an entry-level job.
But that's only a starting point. While it's nice to have an actual salary that allows you to start trimming your college loan burden and eat something besides mac-'n-cheese, you need also to be looking over the horizon...to the future.
Amanda's in the healthcare space where tangible credentials are valued, so she's now focused on a doctorate in some area of healthcare... already has her master's, so she's two steps ahead of a lot of her competition. But she has identified this higher degree as the differentiator.
She also thinks that she would like to teach at some point in the future, so this doctorate will kill the proverbial two birds with one stone... credibility and eligibility.
Is she the only bright star in the sky? Happily, no. But she certainly sets an example for others.
She does this by a wholehearted commitment to her current professional requirements, all the while weighing experiences and opportunities to make sure that what she's doing fits into the plan.
"We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise
And then, if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies."
Emily Dickinson [c. 1870]