3 Steps To Strategically Plan Your Career

3 Steps to Strategically Plan Your Career

Careers play a large role in our overall life satisfaction.

But how often do we take charge in planning and making our careers happen on our own terms? And what does good strategic career planning really look like? These are questions that Christine de Largy, Executive Fellow with the Leadership Institute at the London Business School, explores in her latest Forbes article.  

“As a career coach and former executive search consultant, I have seen many executives leave their careers to chance,” Largy says. “They react to opportunities, such as approaches by executive search consultants, with only a vague framework from which to determine if the role is right and meets their career goals.”

Reacting to opportunities is more common that you may think. A study by Harvey Nash Executive Search found that 39% of executives consider leaving a new role within just the first three months. Only half (48%) feel that they fit into the company culture.

Largy says proactively planning our careers isn’t just important for professional growth, it’s also critical to our health and well-being.

“From infancy to old age, we face increasingly complex challenges that once successfully completed result in a healthy personality and the ability to resolve subsequent crises,” Largy explains. “Failure to complete a stage may result in a reduction in the ability to proceed and a less healthy sense of self.”


The first step to strategic career planning is finding your purpose and mapping your values.  Largy recommends asking yourself questions like the following:

  • When you are looking forward to the next work day, what is it about that day that motivates you?
  • What are you most proud of in your career?
  • If you were attending your own retirement party, what would your boss and colleagues say about you?

You can also utilize the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to get more detailed on your purpose and values.

S: What do I do well? What are my skills and resources that I can draw on? What sets me apart? What do others see as my strengths?

W: What skills do I lack? Where can I improve? What is holding me back? What are others likely to see as weaknesses?

O: What are the current trends? Who needs my skills? How can I turn my strengths into opportunities?

T: What trends might limit my possibilities? What are my competitors doing? What are the obstacles? What can I not control?


Step two is all about aligning your purpose and values to specific goals. This step, Largy warns, isn’t easy.

“Expect this to be an iterative and messy process,” Largy says. “Spend time reflecting on and gaining a deep understanding of sectors, companies and roles that might provide a meaningful next step.”

A helpful tip? Start with identifying what you don’t want. Doing so, Largy says, can help you decide what you’re looking for.

“Consider ownership model, sectors, regions, functional areas, size of organization and culture,” Largy says. “Consider your 10-year goal and work back to five-, three- and one-year goals.”


After setting your goals, you’ll need plans to effectively reach those goals. It can be helpful to have multiple plans of action.

“Your Plan A may be to land a new career, a new role, a new company,” Largy says. A plan B, on the other hand, might be looking for new career development opportunities within your current organization.

“Think about courses, conferences and other events you could attend to improve your knowledge and skills around your goal role,” Largy says. “The chances are that you are trusted and respected where you already are. Make the most of that; those connections are hard earned.”

One of the most effective ways to make a career transition is to do something on the side.

“You will cultivate knowledge, skills, resources and relationships through this process,” Largy says. “Test and figure out new thinking and what you want. This will make your Plan A more robust. Volunteer for new projects and secondments, use your knowledge of the company, the opportunities, and your strengths to propose or initiate new projects that motivate you and add value to the business.”

Sources: Forbes, Harvey Nash

Next Page: Creating Meaningful Connections in a Virtual Work Environment.

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