Your Career Plan — Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

How do you know if you are thinking and acting strategically with regard to your career? What if tactics have overtaken your career vision and impeded your progress?

Many of my coaching clients tell me that the minute they found out that a lay-off was coming, they started making phone calls and revising their resume to fit whatever positions were open. While those activities may be part of your overall plan, starting there is definitely “the tail wagging the dog”.

How do Vision, Strategy, and Tactics Differ?

Let’s start with clarifying these terms:

Career vision is what you aspire to do with your strengths and talent.

Career strategy relates to a broader vision or goal, and is focused on the long-term.

Tactics are usually the steps involved in executing the strategy, and are typically short-term.

This quote sums it up well: Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. ~ Sun Tzu

Aligning Your Career Vision, Strategy, and Tactics

Let’s say your goal is to become Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in a company that invents the medical devices used in spinal surgeries.

Before you kick off your job search, remember what Stephen Covey said: “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words, start by defining your career vision first, next your strategy, and then plan all of the interim tactics to ensure that you execute your career strategy.

That means understanding the “why” of your goal to become a CMO in a medical device company. Some self-assessment is in order if you are to define and articulate a compelling case when you do write your resume or LinkedIn profile. Does your background and education include bio-science? Did someone in your family have a spinal surgery that was life-changing? Is this a field that closely aligns with your personal values?

Your career vision could be: To transform the lives of spinal surgery patients by getting the word out about the best medical device company in the field.

Your strategy must also include gathering market intelligence to understand which companies are on the rise. Discover where thought leaders are taking the industry and decide which companies you want to work with (strategy), rather than only applying to open positions (tactic).

Short Circuit or Accelerated Success

You could short circuit your career plan by executing at a tactical level before you have the broader vision and strategy worked out. Conversely, developing a written vision and strategy, then executing the tactical sub-steps with diligence, creativity, and focus, will accelerate your success.