How can you be more strategic with your career?
We have all heard that to get further up in our careers, we need to put forth our best strategic principles and be tactful. But, how do we do this and where do we begin? Being strategic is easier said than explained, and when it comes down to it, no one really knows where to start.
First, let’s try and break down what we think ‘bring strategic with your career’ means.
- Setting realistic goals that you know you can achieve within a certain time frame
- Embracing creativity with the way you approach work
- Coordinating and communicating with your team
However, the points mentioned above are merely scratching the surface with what being strategic even means. The problem here is we’re not trying to understand what strategic means, we’re simply skipping around the idea of what we think it means.
It isn’t something anyone ever explains, it’s always said to us as a piece of advice. Therefore, we’re left to our own devices regarding the meaning, and this is perhaps the closest we could come up with.
So, what does being strategic with your career mean?
A strategy is a set of actions that ensure the completion of an objective. It’s like a map made specifically for you to get from the starting point to the endpoint. Now, we can move to what makes a good strategy.
So, what makes a good strategy is simple—it’s a linear and focused set of actions that aim in overcoming obstacles in completing a task.
In simple terms, a good plan assists in completing a task with no objections. The plan set here should make sense and complete the objective.
The strategy should not, in any way, get in the way of the objective that needs to be accomplished. A strategy also involves a person completely understanding the problem at hand, from the basic elements of the entire problem, so as to devise a plan to solve every element of the problem regardless of difficulty.
Therefore, the three points we mentioned above as to what we think strategy means can be broken down further here. For instance, when you set realistic goals and achieve them within a time frame, you need to understand that this doesn’t end the strategy. Having goals is easy, but learning how to solve them and figuring out the best methods for everyone to use in order to get these goals done is how the strategy must function.
While being creative is not everyone’s cup of tea, learning to do new things is something we can all adapt to. However, being creative alone isn’t strategic in any way. It is how you learn about the problem and incorporate creative tactics to solve it. Another thing we get wrong is the idea of productivity.
We always misunderstand that working hard is being productive, but this is the same as confusing motion with progress. The thing about working hard is you can work hard on something that is entirely wrong from the basic core, and it is still considered working hard. However, is this productive?
No, it’s not. Therefore, the idea of being strategic is not to work hard, but to work smart. When communicating and collaborating with others in a team, the best approach is to identify the metric goals that demand to be met and work on them together in a smart and productive manner.
Now, let’s get down to business. Here are a few steps on how to be more strategic with your career—the right way!
Picture what success looks like for you
Most often, great success begins with questioning yourself. So, ask yourself what success looks like for you. Let’s say you are super successful in the next five years, what would it look like for you? Now, communicate with your team and find out what it looks like for them. Compare the two and spot the similarities.
Because you’re on the same team, differences may be negligible. However, there are a whole set of reasons why they won’t align.
You may be in the same team, but the idea of success differs from person to person depending on the outcomes, goals, and the level of priority given to those goals.
What needs to be worked on here with each of your views of success is how your company’s vision kicks in between? If it doesn’t, then you now know where to start working.
Understand your problem thoroughly
Before solving a problem, we either panic, blame or misrepresent the problem into what it is not. We most often crib about the fact that there is a problem rather than find ways to solve it. However, what needs to be done right away is not solve it, but understand the problem first. It is only when you understand what it is you need to solve can you solve it thoroughly.
One must understand the relative importance that the problem has on the team and on the objective that is laid out, and draw significant ideas from them.
For instance, is there a part of the problem that can be worked on later? Is there something that needs to be worked on first? First and foremost, every problem can be solved. So do some research and understand your problem, what you need to do, what can be done, what can’t, etc. You should also figure out your core strengths and weaknesses.
Not everyone can solve every problem, therefore, identifying what problems you can solve better than the others can be a strength on its own. What are you really good at? What is your team really good at? What are your weaknesses and what are your teams? Where can you improve?
Learn to prioritize
To prioritize is not easy, this can be written on stone. We all find it very difficult to decline when someone asks us for something, but the art of saying ‘no’ when needed coincides with success in many ways. When you focus on something, you are aware that it moves faster than the others because you are giving this aspect more attention than the rest.
So ask yourself and your team, regarding the problem, what are the few things that you really need to focus on and what are things you can skip for the time being.
Again, remember, the idea is not to solve the problem right away. You have to make sure that the several things that you are working on do not collapse when working on something else, and therefore, prioritize on the smartest and most tactful things that can help in achieving your target.
In the end, if it boils down to ‘should we skip this or should be spending more time on this’, then you have already failed. Either it matters or it doesn’t, always learn to prioritize what matters most.
Focus does not necessarily mean you say yes to what you need to work on. It is, in fact, saying no to a great many other things that needn’t be worked on for the time being. It’s about picking carefully.