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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Phase Your Career Before It Phases You Out

My parents worked for more than 35 years, they retired from their respective jobs when they were around 60-65 years old. Both of them had government jobs and went through natural career progression. Unlike today, those days they did not have the opportunity to change career paths or domains or industries. They were happy to do a government job which ensured that they got a government pension after they retired.

But these days government jobs are quite rare. Most of our generation is employed in private sector or corporate jobs. These private jobs/ careers provide us the luxury to change domains, move from one industry to another and also provides the opportunities to take global careers. However, unlike government jobs, a private job does not provide guaranteed pension after retirement which is a big shortcoming. Not only that, private jobs necessitates that in order to stay relevant in the era of cut throat competition we reskill ourselves continously and plan our careers properly.

Talking about career planning brings us to few very basic questions: How many of us look forward in the future? Some of us may be earning a hefty salary today but are we planning our careers accurately? It is wise to ask yourself some difficult questions...

Have you ever wondered how your career will look like 15 years down the line or 30 years down the line? Would you be doing the same job? or will you be doing something different? For example, if you are a 25 years old software engineer then would you still be a software engineer after 15 years or 30 years? If not, have you ever visualized how your career will progress and conclude?

To answer some of these questions and become future proof we suggest that you design your career path in terms of career phases, that is, divide your career into 3 or 4 phases with respect to your age and experience. One example is given below:

Phase 1: Age 25 to 35 years. Experience 0 to 10 years. We can call this as a High Energy phase. This is where you are full of energy and have dreams and stars in your eyes. This is where you need to focus on learning. Learn as much as possible and break out of 9 AM to 6 PM mindset. Be flexible and develop a go-getter attitude.

Phase 2: Age 35 to 45 years. Experience 10 to 20 years. We can term this as the Prime phase. By the time you enter and pass through this phase you have gained enough meaningful experience to know what you would love to do for the rest of your life. You have built your core skill and strengths. This is where you have also created your power network of people. You have understood in which field you will grow and how exacly that growth will happen. Believe me, if you have not figured out your core strengths and built your power network then you are in some serious trouble.

Phase 3: Age 45 to 60 years. Experience 20 years plus. This is the tricky phase. There are chances that by the time you reach the tricky phase of your career you have already burnt out most of your energy(in phase 1) and you are already past your prime(in phase 2). This is the exact reason why it is termed as "tricky" phase. Imagine yourself as a 45 year old or 50 year old professional who still needs to work for another 10 or 15 years. Ask yourself: How much of fight will be left within you? Would you run out of gas? Would you have enough money in your bank account to support your life after retirement? This is a phase where you need to stay physically fit and mentally fresh. This is a phase where you need to stop living in the past and be ready for change and be open to newer and brighter ideas.

Because there is no going back from Phase 3 to Phase 2 and from Phase 2 to Phase 1, it is of no use or help if you think about your career problems when you reach Phase 2 or Phase 3. It is beneficial to uncover problems early in the game and take some concrete actions. Having the futuristic view of your career phases in front of you will help you do that depending on where you are at this stage of your career and age.

Try plotting a career phase diagram for yourself and you would know exactly where you stand and whether the road ahead is crystal clear or a bit hazy.

To conclude: If you find yourself too busy with your work and havent really got a chance to think about this stuff then it is all the more important that you take a pause. If required, give yourself a break of 2-3 days and invest time in planning your career. It is wise to act on it urgently and you should act right here, right now. Remember that failing to plan is planning to fail.

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39 Key Critical Competencies Of Successful Business Leaders
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