You don’t just sit down and invent a strategy. You certainly don’t do it in a vacuum; you do it in context. You develop a strategy to help you to navigate life and what it throws at you and to keep going in the direction you want to go. You develop a strategy to be proactive, not reactive. You develop a strategy to address real and potential challenges, issues and opportunities. Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” That’s the best way to make sure that the solution actually addresses the problem you’re trying to solve! It’s too easy to jump to action without a strategy, too easy to solve the wrong problem!
The same approach works when creating your strategy. You want to start by getting clear on a lot of questions – and some of the answers – before you start crafting your strategy.
“Clarity takes time. It’s not something you think about in one instant and have it. True clarity requires exploration of the details that surround what you want and often a few revisions to put all the puzzle pieces together. The #1 reason I see people don’t get what they want is they don’t invest the time it takes to get clear.”
– – Cassie Parks, Bestselling Author & LOA Lifestyle Design Coach
So step 2 in creating your strategy is getting clarity. (Step 1 is taking the lead.) Getting clarity is taking time to figure out a bunch of things that you need to know before you pick a direction. You research and think and investigate and think some more. You intuit, guess, ask advice and think some more. You make some decisions. You ask a lot of questions.
In this article, I’m going to focus on developing a career strategy for someone who already has a career, but is going through some kind of “crisis”. This could be anything from feeling unhappy with where you are, contemplating a job or career change, life events that force you to make an unplanned change, to actually losing your job (for any reason) – or anything along that spectrum. You could follow a similar process for any other kind of life strategy – but the specific questions will be different. Write down what you uncover, take notes and use them. And be honest!
- What’s the problem? Understand it. Like the Einstein quote above, spend enough time to be clear about what you’re trying to figure out! Since we’re focusing on some kind of crisis here, get clear on the crisis. What’s going on? Be specific. Was there a single event that precipitated the crisis, has it been building or is it a general state of malaise? Is it your job, the culture, the company? Is it your boss? Is it you? Just maybe? Is it a lack of growth, challenge, progress? Is it too hard, too demanding or just too much work? Has your life changed and your current career – or job – doesn’t work anymore? It’s okay if you come up with more than a couple of things. You can have a multi-faceted strategy! Remember, the better you understand your situation and what isn’t working for you, the better you will be able to create a strategy that fits!
- What are you feeling? And don’t discount this step! It can give you some information you haven’t been “thinking” about, because you’re probably functioning on autopilot most of the time. Or worse, you’ve built up a tolerance and have stopped paying attention to the truths that your feelings could tell you.
- What do you want? Broadly, like in your whole life. And specifically, in your job and your career…and how they fit together. Get specific again. What do you want in terms of company culture? How do you want to spend your day? What kind of recognition? How do you want to feel? et cetera.
- What’s important? What’s NOT important? Whether you believe you can have it all or not, the chances are that you are going to have to compromise. At the very least, you need to prioritize because you’ll have choices. Your strategy is going to guide you in actions AND in decisions. So get clear about what you are not willing to give up and what you are. The answers might surprise you – just make sure that they are YOUR answers.
- What’s the outcome you want? Time horizon? What do you want for the short term, the medium term, the long term? This is similar to question #3 above, but with a focus on the outcome, on what you want this strategy to deliver. The answer does NOT look like “I want a new job where I feel more appreciated and make more money.” It has to be much more specific (like a SMART goal) so that you can focus, achieve and recognize the outcome.
- What are the real constraints? No, not what someone else says. Not what you’ve always told yourself. Challenge your thinking. For each constraint, ask “is it true?” You might discover that it’s a block, not a constraint. You just can’t think of a way through or around. So here’s a trick to think your way through a block. I use it in my coaching practice all the time. When I client says “I don’t know” I say “but if you did know, what would you say?” You know what? They almost always answer with something smart. They really do know! So ask yourself, “if this thing were possible, how would I do it?” You’re going to winnow the list down to things that really are constraints, not BS beliefs.
- Find your intuition and add it to the mix. There are lots of definitions for intuition. I think intuition is a way of knowing what you know without knowing exactly how you know it. That’s a tongue twister. Intuition uses all the information sources you have available to gather data and bypasses the conscious analytical function of your brain to process and reach a conclusion, so that you can completely skip the analysis paralysis phase. You can trust your intuition. If you’ve forgotten how, or are slightly skeptical, try it for this part of building your strategy – for getting clarity. It’s another information source. If you’re interested – or need some scientific support before you try something, google the Gut Brain Connection and Intuition.
- Reflect. Stop and think about all this. Let it sit for a couple of days. Pay attention to what comes into your world, what crosses your awareness barrier. I believe that you will experience some interesting “coincidences” and get some insights from unexpected places, have some unplanned conversations on the topic that help you tease out some things.
- Calling, Career or Job? Ask yourself a hard question, and answer honestly. What are you looking for right now. Do you just want something that keeps you busy and pays the bills – just a job? Have you “paid your dues” and want to focus on another facet of your life? Are you tired of a string of jobs that don’t seem to lead anywhere? Do you want a career with growth and challenge? Or does everything seem kind of empty, and you are looking for your purpose, a calling? Whatever the real answer is, it’s okay. Really, it’s okay if you don’t have a calling as a career. If you admit that, you make space to find it somewhere else! You have a whole broad, big life to live. There’s lots of room for a calling and purpose! Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be the way you earn your living!
- The last point of clarity: what are your priorities? Looking through your notes on the things above, list out your priorities, then do a forced ranking of the top 5 to 10. If it comes down to it, what’s MOST important.
These questions are not exhaustive. This isn’t the only way to get clarity. It’s not the only way to come up with a strategy. It’s one way. There are others. If this way doesn’t work for you, try something else. There is not one-size-fits-all anything. Pick what works best for you! The most important point thing to remember is that you think about how you want to resolve your current career crisis in the context of your whole life. You need a strategy before you jump into action, and you need clarity before you before you build your strategy!
This is Part 3 in the blog series: You Need A Strategy! (Part 1) (Part 2) No matter what is going on in your life or your career, creating a strategy is one of the most empowering things that you can do to guarantee success and happiness.
In the midst of a career crisis or transition? Sound like the kind of things you’re thinking about? Want help thinking through your strategy? Request a Strategy Session. Email to set it up: email@example.com.
Maggie Huffman is a best-selling author and Life Coach, specializing in making business skills “transferable” to life skills!