planningThis article was originally published in Executive Secretary magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

As admins, we often get so wrapped up in our daily professional routines that we forget to look at the bigger picture. We go to work, take care of business, and go home. Then we get up and do it again the next day. While there’s no harm in having a routine, it can be dangerous if it leads to a career that’s on autopilot.

This is why it’s imperative that every admin have a strategic career plan.

Banish Career Monotony
I have worked in the administrative profession for more than 20 years, and I’ve held every position from receptionist to executive assistant to the company’s president. Early in my career, I progressed up the ladder without too much trouble. But my career was happening to me instead of me guiding it where I wanted it to go. At the time, I had no clue about the opportunities in the admin career field mainly because I hadn’t bothered to explore them.

This is a common refrain among admins I interact with. They have become complacent in their careers – not because they intended to, but because they are unaware of their true potential and what this profession has to offer.

The light bulb came on for me when I found myself with the best executive I’d ever supported in the worst work environment you can imagine. When I realized he was going to be retiring soon, I quickly realized I needed a plan. I needed to start being proactive about my career path. I needed to figure out where I wanted to go professionally and how I was going to get there. If you’re stuck in a career rut, there’s no better time than now to shake the dust off and get proactive about where you want to go professionally.

What is a Strategic Career Plan?
A strategic career plan is a combination of your personal vision, mission, and goals used to guide your professional growth and development. Once created, your career plan will help you evaluate yourself and where your career is headed. It will help you understand where you are right now and what you need to do to get to the next place you want to be on your career path. The exercise of creating and maintaining your strategic career plan allows you to shift from a reactive approach to a proactive approach in managing your career development.

Everyone has their own unique purpose and calling in the admin profession, and no two paths will be the same. This is why it’s crucial that you create a strategic career plan that’s tailored specifically to you – not a carbon copy of another admin’s plan. It needs to reflect your personality, strengths, passions, interests and career goals, as it will be your guide in making decisions about training opportunities, skills development, new positions, performance review goals, and more!

Create Your Strategic Career Plan
You can include whatever you’d like in your career plan. However there are three important questions you need to answer in order for your plan to be effective.

  • Where are you now? To determine where you are now, write down the goals you’ve already achieved. How did you tackle these goals and what made you successful? What goals did you fail to achieve and why? Is there anything you’re tolerating instead of overcoming? What’s your mission – or the impact you want to make daily?One of my favorite online resources for creating a personal mission and vision statement for your life and career is found at www.franklincovey.com/msb. This self-guided tutorial will help you explore what’s important to you and why. When you’re finished you have a working document to incorporate into your strategic career plan that you can refer back to frequently.
  • Where do you want to go? There’s a world of possibilities out there, so picking a path can be a challenge. The good news is that this plan isn’t set in stone. It can and should evolve as you gain more skills and experience (more on that later). Ask yourself why you chose to be an admin. What factors are critical to your success? What is your specialty or niche? You should also take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis for the target job or position you’re aiming for.
  • How are you going to get there? Think about your short-term (next year), mid-range (2-3 years), and long-term (5 years and beyond) career goals. What does your career look like at each of these points? Keep in mind, you’ll never be greater than your most lofty ambition. So don’t sell yourself short. Write down all the things you need to do to get where you want to be. Include certifications, education, training, and mentoring that you need; projects that you need to complete, such as a professional portfolio; and publications or books you should read.

Go through each of these questions and compile your answers to each into some form of documentation – whether it’s a Word file or handwritten notes in a notebook. Then review your notes and look at your long term objectives. Begin creating specific goals that you want to achieve in the next 12 months that will help you advance toward those larger objectives. To hold yourself accountable in achieving each goal, break it down into specific steps or tasks involved in making it happen. Brainstorm the resources – materials and money – required to complete it. Identify a targeted completion date. Add it to your calendar. Then write down the actual date you accomplished it so you have a written record of your achievements and the progress you are making toward reaching your goals. You can download a free Administrative Career Planning template to help you with this at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

When you take this approach, your strategic career plan becomes a literal plan of action that keeps you on track and accountable. It also becomes a fantastic tool for discussing your goals and accomplishments over the course of the year with your executive during one on one meetings and at annual performance review time. And it helps you make better decisions about the opportunities and challenges you face along the way.

Creating your strategic career plan should be an empowering and rewarding experience, and the goal is for you to come away with a better understanding of your professional motives and how you are going to achieve them.

Keep Your Plan Fresh
Your strategic career plan isn’t something you create and put on a shelf somewhere. It should be a living document that you regularly revisit. Hold a strategic planning session with yourself every year to measure your progress and reevaluate your goals, if necessary. Did your request for a raise get turned down? Figure out what you can do in the coming year to make it difficult for your employer to turn you down again. Did you unexpectedly switch employers? Map out how this change impacts your plan. Regularly reviewing and updating your strategic career plan will help ensure that you don’t get off track professionally and keep you thinking about what’s next. It also gives you a means for tracking your professional progress, which can be especially useful for annual reviews or if you decide to switch jobs.

Innovative admins don’t leave their careers to chance. They plan. They evolve. And they succeed. A strategic career plan helps you do all of the above. By mapping out your professional path, you’re giving yourself a plan of action that, when put into motion, will drive your career forward. If you do this, you can achieve things you never imagined. Make your professional ambitions a reality instead of just hoping for someone to give you a break. Take charge of your career and start creating your strategic administrative career plan today!

Download our free templates to help you get started.

© 2014 Julie Perrine International, LLC

Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at www.executivesecretary.com to find out more or to get your 30% discount email lbrazier@executivesecretary.com and tell them we sent you.