I’m frequently asked for tips and tactics which people can use to be certain they are making the most of their career.

Obviously there are many lists and books out there on the subject. And based on those, it seems there are many “experts” who can provide the reader with all the tools they’ll need to get ahead. People with backgrounds in human resources, consulting, coaching, and other fields as well appear to making a good living simply by addressing this need.

So why are there so many individuals who are totally dissatisfied with how they’re doing?

Over the past 30 or so years, I’ve had the chance to work with and meet some really successful people. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with the chairmen of a diverse group of large companies like AT&T, Cablevision, DIRECTV and Hudson’s Bay Company. When he was the president, I was invited to have breakfast with Bill Clinton. During my career I’ve witnessed firsthand as successful people crashed and burned in their jobs. I’ve also seen individuals who were considered failures become huge success stories. At some stage I started asking these people about how they achieved what they did. Was there a magic bullet they used? Could there be a common thread in their career success – or was there really an element of luck?

I found out that almost everyone I asked this question shared one thing in common.

They all had a plan.

I know that to some of you reading this, it may sound too “easy”. Can one’s career success be strongly impacted by the simple activity of planning? The short answer is – ABSOLUTELY.

If you don’t have a plan, don’t feel bad. According to our research, about 86% of people don’t have a plan for their life. That means they get up every day and put their future in the hands of others. I’m all for trust, but expecting others to look after me makes me nervous.

But some people say things like:

“If I work hard, my performance will get me ahead.” Or,

“I’m in a growth industry.”

Many will point to their salaries and titles as evidence that no plan is needed because they are doing well without one.

My responses are always the same:

How do you know you couldn’t be doing much better?

How do you determine you are as successful as you could be?

Successful career strategists don’t compare themselves to those around them as much as they do to their own standards of performance. For them, the race is with themselves.

If you don’t have a plan for your career, how do you check-in occasionally to see how you are doing? What measurement do you use to calculate what’s required to move the next level and within a set period of time?

There’s a reason why organizations and businesses spend so much time looking ahead and planning how they are going to succeed in an ever-more difficult environment.

If you think you can achieve your goals doing things differently than successful organizations or very-successful people, I urge you to think again. Take a lesson from the 14% of the population who tell us they have plans for their career success. Make your own plan. Now.

– john

Career Coach