How many emails do you send in a day? I counted the other day and figured out I send out just over 100. That’s actually lower than the average employee, who sends out over 120 emails.
How many meetings do you attend per month? Thankfully, most of my meetings are at convenient times these days and for specific reasons. For the average employee, however, there are 60+ meetings per month to attend and many of them may be mostly worthless.
In many ways, our jobs can feel like they control us. It’s time to take that control back. We can do this through the strategic thinking process. Here are the methods I use to make sure my career stays on the right track.
#1. Take time for yourself and your career every day. When life gets busy, it becomes easy to stop thinking. This may be fine for a day or two, but when it occurs for a month or two, it affects the way you think. Instead of pursuing a passion, you begin to pursue a paycheck. This is why I always make at least 15 minutes in my schedule, no matter how busy the day may be, to strategically think. I call it “career meditation.” This allows me to examine the big picture, prepare for meetings, or come up with a new idea that could change everything.
#2. Make sure you have planned the next step. It can be a lot of fun to be spontaneous when taking a vacation. Your career should not be spontaneous. I’ve found that if each career step is planned out and anticipated, it becomes much easier to find the success that is desired. Some pathways toward success may seem hidden. Some steps that need to be taken can be very difficult to take. Look at where you want to be in the next 3-5 years. Then look at what you need to make happen to reach the end of the journey. This is how you plan the next step.
#3. Invest your time into meaningful work. When there are 120+ emails per day to send, it can be easy to feel like you’ve been productive. Trust me. Sending emails is not meaningful work. It just keeps you busy. If you want your career to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself, it is necessary to dig deep and do the work that no one else wants to do. This will likely give you a nickname, like being a “go-getter” or the “VP’s Pet.” Ignore that stuff and do what you need to do. Your co-workers come up with unflattering names because they’ve become stuck on their own path and we all know that misery loves company.
#4. Keep building up your reputation. Here’s an uncomfortable truth: within any organization, the best employees are almost always taken for granted. This is why external hires often make 20% or more than internal promotions. In order to counter this effect, it becomes important to keep reminding your supervisors and executive team of your accomplishments. Show them how you stand out. Take time to support your career during your off-hours here and there as well to prove your commitment and this will help you to build a solid reputation.
Strategic thinking might seem like a waste of time on some days, but it never is. I’ve found that with just 15 minutes set aside every day to think about my career and final goals, it becomes much easier to do more than just shoot for the stars.
How has strategic thinking helped you reach your goals?