5 Tips to Consider When Charting Your Career Path

Developing a career takes time and attention. But many people get sidetracked when planning careers or pursuing job opportunities. Phillips DiPisa consultants offer tips to help chart a career path.

May 30, 2017 – It’s hard to say what makes for a successful career. Nor is there any “right path” to achieving your professional goals. Some routes may be more direct than others, but the ways to get there are innumerable. Healthcare and life sciences executive search firm Phillips DiPisa recently released a report with advice for mapping your career.

If you are looking to follow a more traditional path, here are some suggestions to keep in mind: Progressive titles, expanded portfolios, additional budgetary responsibility, movement from a smaller to a bigger or a more prestigious organization, and to whom you report can all influence how an outsider perceives your development. “If you are trying to advance your career in the traditional sense, being promoted from a manager to a director to a vice president will be viewed as steady progression, which will be appealing to future employers,” said Denise Trammel, vice president of Phillips DiPisa and co-author of the report.

Such advancement may also reflect that you gained areas of responsibility over time and/or that you took on more budgetary responsibility. “By managing more resources, FTEs and dollars, you can demonstrate professional growth,” said Tricia Lafond, VP of Phillips DiPisa and co-author of the report. “Also, reporting structure and to whom you report to are important factors because these are often indications of how much influence or visibility you may have within an organization.”

Seeking Advancement

Additionally, the size of your organization — and going from a smaller to a bigger one — is usually seen as a positive step and shows development. But not always, the authors warn. You may, for example, decide to move from a large organization to a smaller one in order to gain a more senior role. “Of course, the reputation of your current organization is naturally important and going from a more prestigious organization is another way to show advancement in your career,” said Ms. Trammel.

These are all developments and progressions that future employers consider when trying to assess one’s career path. That said, achieving success need not be, nor will it always be, linear or progressive. “Your title, portfolio responsibility, reporting structure and size or reputation of your current organization are not the only ways to advance your career,” Ms. Lafond said. “Getting involved in big projects or key organizational initiatives is a great way to gain additional exposure and can serve as another avenue for success.”

Here are five key tips as you chart your career path:

1.   Be self-aware: It may sound obvious, but being self-aware matters in building a career. We all know what we do well and enjoy doing. Following these passions and strengths inevitably produce positive outcomes. Each of us also has talents that come naturally – while other aspects of the job require more work. Be aware of your skills and proficiencies and know where you are less competent. Think about your personal life as you are considering your career path as well.

“You should be self-aware enough to know whether a new opportunity or career move will work well for you and for your family,” said Ms. Trammel. “In fact, this is one of the first things we discuss with candidates when we present them with potential job opportunities. A perfect job is one that makes sense on paper, but also works for the entire family.”

“Lastly, always consider the factors that drive job satisfaction for you. For example, depending on the time of your life, flexibility may be essential to professional fulfilment,” she said. At other times in your life, you may be driven to be part of an innovative or start-up-like culture, she said. Knowing what will give you job satisfaction is important to career success.

2.   Be internally motivated to perform at your best: Doing well in your current job is of primary importance in order to achieve success. Your enthusiasm, commitment and hard work will be noticed by your employer. Also, if there are skills you need to improve, seek additional training.

“You should also focus on the results of your current job,” Ms. Lafond says. “At the end of your time in this role, you should be able to point to what you accomplished. Remember that responsibilities tell, and accomplishments sell. High performance may not guarantee you a promotion, but it will certainly give you a chance at bat.”

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3.   Maintain your professional network: As you chart your career path, you should constantly be developing and maintaining your professional network. By networking and increasing your visibility, you are making connections which may help you later in your career.

“Staying professionally connected may entail joining a professional organization, accepting speaking engagements, getting published or recorded in the press, and maintaining relationships with executive recruiters,” said Ms. Trammel. “Everyone you work with may ultimately be a professional reference. Do not burn bridges, and brush up on your social skills.”

4.   Take some risk along the way: Another key piece is dealing with risk — facing it, accepting it and managing it. Making a career move always feels risky because you are leaving a culture and relationships that are known to you. This transition can cause stress and apprehension. Keep in mind, however, that risk, opportunity and rewards are inherently linked.

“Career moves are typically a requirement for significant career advancement,” said Ms. Lafond. “In other words, to advance your career, you may need to make a move. A final thought on risk is that perceived risk is actually greater than actual risk. It may be hard to leave the security of your current role and organization, but in the end, you will be glad you made the move. Go for it!”

5.   Don’t be perceived as a job “hopper” or “lifer”: A “hopper” is someone who makes a lot of jumps in his or her career and a “lifer” is someone who stays in one organization for too long. To avoid being a jumper, decline a position if you think it won’t keep you challenged for at least three years.

“Multiple job moves of less than three years do not look good to future employers,” Ms. Trammel said. “Conversely, 10 years or longer in one organization may create a perception or questions regarding your level of motivation and your ability to deal with change. Make some moves – but not too many.”

In summing up, the authors offered some key points to ask yourself when pondering a career change: “How it will look on my resume? Is the organization and team a fit for me? To whom will I report? Is the job itself a fit for my interests and abilities? You should always be keeping an eye on advancement opportunities, but you need to be thoughtful about your decisions to make a move and you should always do your due diligence.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Chase Barbe, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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