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Do you want to change careers, advance in your field, or find a better work environment? Is this a dream, wish, or goal? Planning is the critical element that differentiates between wishing, dreaming, and doing.

“A dream without a goal is a wish; a goal without a plan is just a dream.” - Larry Elder

Managing your career is a job in itself. In fact, your career is basically a business, and you are the president, CEO, head of marketing, and lead customer service rep. When you are ready for a transition in your career, you must have a business plan – just like any good business must have a plan before it decides to make a change.

A successful business plan should be practical, sustainable, and workable. Answering the following five questions will give you the foundation for your business plan and allow you to identify and implement the actions that will lead you to success.

1. Who or What Is Your Target?

A successful company knows who its customers are. It knows their incomes, likes, occupations, locations, needs, and accessibility. In order to reap the greatest benefit, the company limits its efforts to focus on the ideal customer(s).

The company also recognizes that it may have more than one ideal client. For example, a sporting goods store may target both hardcore athletes and novices who are entering into the world of sports for the first time.

For the business of your career, you should be asking the following questions:

- What or who is your target?

- Are there certain companies that you want to work for?

- What position do you want next?

- What responsibilities do you want?

- What opportunities do you want?

- What does that next ideal step look like?

2. What Do You Have To Offer?

A strong company knows what makes it unique and valuable to its customers.

CoinsUnderstanding what makes you valuable and different from your competition elevates you as a candidate. You need to be able to answer the question, “Why you?”

Move beyond the list of duties that you perform or have performed in the past – look for value. Duties are what you are hired to do, but it is how you do what you do that determines your value.

To get a strong sense of your unique value proposition, answer these questions:

- Who do you work with?

- How do you work with them?

- What do you contribute?

- What have you accomplished?

- Why was it important that you were involved in this process? How did you make it better than it otherwise would have been?

3. Who Are the Other Candidates?

A company knows its competitors. It knows who they are, how their customers reach them, how they market, and what their value propositions are.

You need to know your competition, too. Who are the other candidates out there vying for the same roles and pursuing the same goals? What makes them valuable – and how can you make yourself more valuable than they are?

Leverage LinkedIn to review your potential competition. Do any stand out, and if so, why? Can you learn something from them? Do they better utilize SEO in their profile? Do they speak to value rather than duties?

Do an impartial comparison of yourself against your competition. Would you hire or promote yourself over your competitors? Be honest!

4. What Is Your Marketing Plan?

The heart of a business’s success lies in its marketing. Marketing drives sales, promotions, pricing, publicity, repeatability, and growth.

SmartphoneThe business of your career needs marketing, too. Career marketing consists of a combination of various elements, and the two most important are LinkedIn and networking.

LinkedIn is your online presence. This is where you will be discovered, contacted, or overlooked. Your profile should reflect your value, spoken from a first-person perspective that directly connects you to your target audience.

LinkedIn is a piece of networking, but it is not the only piece. There are many other opportunities for networking, including face-to-face networking at conferences and such. When networking, it is important to know your value proposition: What value do you provide and to whom do you provide it?

Fine-tune your elevator pitch. Know the key elements, but leave it unscripted – this will make it easier to adapt the pitch depending on your environment.

Once you have the basics, network!

Engage in networking opportunities like industry meetings, formal networking events, and chamber events. Even casual conversations – like the kind you might have while waiting in line at the movie theater or during halftime at a football game – are networking opportunities

A current resume with a focus on value rather than job duties is another key element of your marketing plan. Once you start networking, you want to be able to immediately capitalize on any opportunity that may come along, so make sure your resume is always updated!

5. How Do You Adjust?

Having a business plan is the foundation for your success; utilizing it, evaluating the results, and adjusting action items as necessary is critical if you want to actually make it to the point of success.

For example, you may have a goal of transitioning into a new field. However, after implementing your business plan, you might discover that the field is not what you thought it would be and that you are no longer interested in this goal. You’ll need to modify your target and approach if you want to move forward toward success!

Track your progress. When networking, track how many contacts you make, your interactions, and the results. Modify your approach or pitch to clarify your message and generate more concrete leads.

LighthouseThe business plan is your guide, and through the proper execution of the plan, you will generate results. These results must be analyzed to determine whether or not you are truly making progress on your goal. If you are not getting the results you want, you can leverage the information you have collected to modify your plan accordingly

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Having a solid business plan gives you a blueprint for your success. It is your guide, and by answering the five essential questions above, you will have a strong advantage over your competition and a greater appreciation for the value that you can bring to an organization.



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