You’ve likely seen by now that having a plan is the quickest, straightest way to reach a goal. Whether it’s budgeting to pay off bills or save up for something you want, determining how to get your child ready for college, or managing your daily tasks, a plan is essential. So it only makes sense that something as important as your future career needs a blueprint for you to reach those long-term goals.
Where do you want to be in six months? One year? Five years? Retirement? These are all milestones that need action plans to get to them. They’re coming whether you’re ready for them or not, so when you do your best to get there strategically, it’s easier to reach your professional goals.
Common goals for scholars include applying for and obtaining grants to complete research projects, making impactful discoveries, designing and implementing a functional website, acquiring department head positions, writing a book, achieving tenure, and having financial freedom. Yours may look similar, or be completely unique to you, but you’ll still need a blueprint to reach them.
How to Create Your Career Blueprint
Ready to get started? These six steps will guide you as you create your blueprint to a career full of success:
- Start with your current situation. Where are you at right now? There’s no need to beat yourself up if you’re now where you had planned to be. The key is to get a feel for your current situation so that you can move forward. Even if you’re taking baby steps, forward movement is still moving forward. Take stock of your immediate level of satisfaction. What is working and can grow with you? Where are you dissatisfied? That shows you clearly where the areas you need to change exist.
- Define your goals. You already know what a goal looks like: It’s SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s almost a certainty that you create these goals regularly in your job as an academic scholar. Now, apply that process to your own professional and personal goal-setting. Where do you want to be in six months? What SMART steps will help you get there? Repeat this for one year, five years, ten years, and so on. Feel free to change the timing to match your needs.
- Make a list of your challenges. What, in your current situation, is keeping you from moving forward to reach your goals? It could be something as simple as time. You can’t get tenure until you’ve put in your time on the job. That’s great! Time passes whether we want it to or not. Along the way, you can be working toward organizing the records you’ll need to prove you’re ready for tenure and improving your scholarly reputation. But there are many other challenges that are possible, too. Finances, finding collaborative teams, unhappy relationships, etc. are things that must be tackled in order to be corrected. Otherwise, they remain long-term obstacles in the way that slow down progress toward your goals.
- Add detail to your long-term goals. Imagine a big picture where you’ve met your general long-term goal of tenure, retirement, etc. What does your life look like around those goals? Who is with you to join in your success? How did you get there? What will you do once you’ve hit that milestone? Add as much detail as possible to stoke the vision of your future. You’re more likely to get there if you can see it, feel it, and even taste it!
- List the milestones you’ll need to accomplish. This is similar to those SMART goals, but now you’re designing a general timeline. This becomes the map that takes you from where you are now to each time-bound goal.
- Create a check-up plan to hold you accountable. Our success is only as efficient as our accountability. If you have no reason to push yourself, it’s easy to drop out of the race when things get tough, or when you get distracted. Find a mentor to help keep you accountable, or use intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to look forward to as you meet each milestone.
Use Impactio’s Analytics to Map Your Goals
Your career blueprint is a visual map that can help take you from today to the future. It’s always a work in progress, constantly evolving, and will likely need to be tweaked from time to time. But one way you can monitor your success is by using Impactio to measure your work’s influence.
Impactio provides you with the tools you need to clearly see how much you’ve grown over time as a researcher. With Impactio’s analytic mapping features, you can check out your recent work, measure its impact, and synthesize the results to show you your strengths and weaknesses. These vital elements of data can be the impetus you need to push you forward in your career blueprint.