Slide1I’ve been working with a lot of people on real career planning, individuals and groups. One of my clients brought all staff, individual contributors, supervisors, managers and the senior leader into the same learning program. The result was tremendous value in the conversations, ideas, and shared commitment, not to mention the plan-in-progress.

Today, I just want to offer one key aspect of my approach.

  1. I ask people to draw a Career-Life Timeline showing their past–to-present experiences.
  2. Then, rather than build onto the current and plan forward, I direct people to move way down the timeline “as far as they can see.” For someone like me, that means semi- and full-retirement. For others, it might mean when the kids are financially independent. (See the picture for this post)
  3. Now, imagine at least two or three career endpoints. They might be exact titles or a clear type of role (e.g., head of research & development small company, senior executive in finance on leadership team,etc.).

The challenge is to suspend your thinking about what roles are “possible” or “realistic” and focus on what would really satisfy you at that point in your timeline.

The secret is to create as many alternative endpoints as you can honestly imagine. At least more than one with possible paths to reaching each one.

When you pull your career planning back to a near-term view, you will have that longer-term view as part of your decision framework.

Take a big sheet of paper out, draw a line, and begin to envision your alternative futures. Just for fun, do it now!