05/07/2010 04:02 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Save Your Career Now!

So many people have that "end goal" in mind. They know what their ultimate career goal is -- be it General Manager, CEO or business owner. As definitive as they are in that goal they are equally unspecific on how they're going to get there. Some people believe that just by doing well on their job, they'll magically arrive at their career goal. That approach may work for some, but for most people it takes structure.

Having a successful career takes planning. Too many people allow their careers "to happen" rather than being the architect. They move in and out of jobs without looking at the overall picture of where they want their careers to be.

To build the career you want think of yourself as the architect of your ultimate dream. You need a vision, a blueprint and the resources to build it.

It Starts With Your Vision - Where do you want to be? What are you passionate about? Nobody knows you better than you. Whatever your career goal is, remember it's not only about the end result, it's about the journey, which is why it's important to go after something that you really want. You want to be excited every day (or almost every day) while you're working on that goal. Whatever your vision is, it's important to keep it top of mind.

When Are You Going to Get there? Think about where you are right now in your career.
How long will it take you to get from where you are today to that ultimate goal? It's important that you write down this end date, just like you would for any other deadline at work. This date is going to drive the actions you'll be taking towards your goal. It doesn't have to be set in stone but, it does have to be realistic.

How Are You Going to Do It? It may involve getting new skills (education or job rotation), strengthening current skills (seminars, finding a mentor), developing a successor, taking on more responsibilities, joining a board, raising your profile internally and externally. Ask your boss for projects that will help you get there quicker. When you're creating your blueprint prioritize your efforts so that you're focused on the things that have the greatest impact. Show your roadmap to someone who already has the job to get their input.

How Are You Doing? Matt LeBlanc (Joey) on "Friends" used to ask this question all the time. It's a good one to be asking yourself in terms of measuring your progress. Are you on track based on your timeline? Most people don't measure and then wonder why they're not getting closer to their goal. Just like companies have a quarterly analyst call to measure results, have your own quarterly review to measure your progress. If you do it quarterly and make the necessary adjustments, you'll never be far off track.

Course Correction-- If you're not getting there, you need to adjust. You may need to do different things or things in a different order. Change things until you find the right combination that leads to the results you want.

Think about the people who have been very successful in their careers. They took charge of their destiny by creating their roadmap and by making the necessary adjustments along the way. The difference between these people and most others is that they focused on what they wanted and worked strategically to get there. You can do the same by creating your own blueprint for success and there's no better time to start than now.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success