Take control of your career; don’t let it control you, and don’t wander down the wrong path for years at a time before you recognize the problem and bring your plans back on track. In the early years, a finance career can become sidelined by simple mistakes (“Why did I make that remark in the meeting?”). In the mid-level years, trouble often comes in the form of stagnation (“I’ve been working here for seven years without a promotion. Is that too long?”). And in later years, careers can become fragile as skill sets narrow and opportunities diminish beyond the walls of a single employer (“If I have to leave this place, I don’t know where I’ll go”). A few tips like these can help you stay agile and in motion.
Always have a five-year plan.
On the first day of your job search, immediately after graduation, develop a clear idea of where you’d like to be five years from now. Update your plan every year. Of course, your “right-now” plan will always take precedence, and your list of things to do will always be a daily list with practical applications for the present moment. But make sure that all of the tasks you complete—even the smallest—have a place in a clear long-term plan.
Avoid manipulation and distractions.
Praise and criticism both have a special way of driving career-minded individuals right off the road. Don’t let an entry-level job become an inescapable whirlpool simply because the boss likes your work and wants to keep you where you are…or dislikes your work and won’t move you forward. It’s great to feel like you’re good at what you do…but when you’re learning and growing, you’re not always perfectly comfortable. By nature, pushing yourself to the next level means pushing against the boundaries of your comfort zone. Don’t allow yourself to be scolded, criticized, praised, or rewarded into sitting still. Stay in control.
Change jobs every four years.
If you’re blissfully happy to spend the rest of your working life exactly where you are, then go ahead and ignore this rule. But most of us don’t see ourselves sitting in the same chair and executing the same tasks until we’re sixty-five. If your long-term vision has you working somewhere else (at the management level, as a senior executive, or starting your own business), then you’ll need to leave your chair behind at least once every four years. Negotiate for an internal promotion or seek a position outside the company. Choose one or the other, but don’t wait for an engraved invitation.
Break a large goal into smaller ones.
To reach your five-year goals, you’ll have to break these down into five one-year goals. And then you’ll need to break those into six-month plans, and then one month plans, and so on. Start now. When your plan needs to change, don’t hesitate to fix a course of action that isn’t working.
For specific career management tips, reach out to the financial staffing experts at Cordia.