My favorite quote from Peter F. Drucker is “The best way to predict the future…is to create it.”
So you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, and you’re doing great. You’ve successfully tackled the challenges that have been handed to you and have begun to move up the ranks. But now what? What’s your next step? The higher you rise, the less clear the path to success becomes, especially for women. With so few women in senior positions to look to, it is up to you to decide and create a different future that will lead you to the highest professional success and personal fulfillment.
On the positive side, this time in your career is filled with opportunity and excitement—you get to make your way! When nothing is certain, anything is possible. However, creating your future can also feel very intimidating and overwhelming. Here are seven steps to clarify the process and get you on the unique career path that works for you.
Step 1: Take a personal inventory
What are the top three qualities you value in yourself that translate to strengths in your current job?
Here’s an example: I have a straightforward style. This means people always know where they stand with me, and they can feel confident giving me straight feedback—even if it’s negative.
Now, discuss your strengths with your manager or mentor to determine how your strengths align with the company’s current business initiatives as well as higher-level roles that you can aspire to. It is also a good idea to identify the gaps you may need to fill to move up and take on these new challenges.
Step 2: Find what energizes you.
Visualize an enjoyable but challenging day in your current role. What is energizing for you in this scenario that aligns with the new potential projects and tasks you discussed with your manager? Your sweet spot for future career success will be where your passions and strengths converge. The next step is ensuring there is an opportunity. Spoiler alert: You may have to create that opportunity yourself.
Step 3: Re-imagine your company
Creating a future that works for you must begin with a clear vision and intention in mind. So, imagine your company operating in a way that satisfies your sweet spot and allows you to thrive. Describe what that would look like in three different ways that create an emotional connection:
- How it aligns with your mission
- What makes it the company you deserve
- How it is leading change across your industry
Step 4: Identify resources
What are the professional supports you can leverage to get you closer to your goals? Here are some examples:
- Company women’s network or other employee resource groups
- Local professional women’s organizations
- Supportive colleagues, managers, mentors, and sponsors
Step 5: Invest In Content and Connections
Knowledge and relationships are the two primary keys to success in any field. Find the workshops, conferences, and other professional education events that will foster your growth and development and move your skills in the right direction. Research the people in your field that you can learn from and make creating and sustaining those connections a priority.
Step 6: Seek out other women to learn about their vision.
Who are the women whose careers you admire? Which women do you know whose professional goals align with yours? Make them your tribe.
Step 7: Make the case for your company.
This step is critical. Everybody wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” View your vision through the lens of your company’s executive team: How does your organization benefit from your achieving your goals? Be bold in making the mutually beneficial case for your company supporting you in your career.