Tips that make us wiser about career building and planning

28 April 2022


Most of us would prefer to think long-term about our careers rather than just veering randomly to snag perceived opportunities and avoid pitfalls. But how can you adopt a strategic lens when you might not be entirely sure where you want to end up?  

The author offers four strategies:  

  • Start by figuring out what you don’t want.  
  • Pick one direction as your “provisional hypothesis” for where you want your career to go.  
  • Double down on foundational skills and knowledge that will make you better, no matter what direction you ultimately decide to pursue.  
  • Take stock of your emotional and mental energy. 

One of the most important elements in thinking strategically about your career is understanding that our lives operate in cycles — the author calls “thinking in waves” — and we have to recognize where we are in that process. 

It’s not that it’s easy to achieve our long-term career goals. But if you know what you’re aspiring toward, you at least have a sense of the process:  

  • Begin with the end in mind 
  • Decide what you don’t want 
  • Work backward to the present day 
  • Develop provisional hypotheses 
  • Execute assiduously 
  • Make progress on the basics 
  • Take stock of your emotional and mental energy

Short-term pressures always intrude on our long-term career planning, and that’s especially true when we’ve been through a collective period of crisis. Even if we’re not entirely sure where we want to end up, by following these strategies, we can ensure we’re taking the right steps to move away from what isn’t working for us, and toward a future that seems more hopeful.

*This article is adapted from the book The Long Game: How to Make Progress on Your Long-Term Career Goals, by Dorie Clark (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022).

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