Plan your next step now

The story of Macbeth is often presented as a warning against the dangers of ambition, but I see it as an instructive case study of how to succeed in today’s business environment.  Macbeth was vice-president of a major Scottish corporation.   He was a good worker, and his good work was recognized by the company’s CEO, Duncan.  Because of Macbeth’s  impressive handling of the Glamis account, Duncan took the floundering Cawdor account from another vice-president and gave it to Macbeth as well.

Despite this apparent success, Macbeth was dissatisfied.  He didn’t particularly enjoy being a vice-president, and had no interest in taking on the Cawdor account.  Like many of us, he had simply drifted through his career, taking whatever job was offered without thinking about where he really wanted to be or how to get there.  With such lack of planning, it’s not surprising that he didn’t like where he ended up.

But then Macbeth took the positive step of meeting with a trio of career consultants, who helped him figure out that his ideal job was as a CEO.  With that clear goal in mind, he started looking at what steps would be required to achieve the goal, and when the opportunity for advancement presented itself, he seized it, urged on by his supportive wife.  If Macbeth had not had his career goal clearly in mind, he would never have recognized the opportunity.

Ultimately, Macbeth’s story ends badly because of his involvement in a couple of minor ethics violations, but we can still draw a useful lesson from his career.  Few people are lucky enough to work in their ideal job, yet most people have no plan on how to move from their current, unsatisfactory job to a job that better meets their needs.  They simply take whatever job is available, and accept promotions or new assignments as they are offered without considering how the new job will help them reach their goal. Similarly, many sole proprietors take whatever clients come along without planning ahead for what kind of work they would like to be doing

Don’t drift through your career; figure out what you want next and prepare for it.

Figuring out where you want to end up can help you get there, because you can start seeing opportunities to move in the right direction, and you will also recognize obstacles that need to be overcome.

I had one client at Core Allies,LLC who had held a number of marketing positions in the food and beverage division of a multinational corporation, but had not taken charge of his career or made any conscious attempt to guide it.  Working with him, I helped him discover that the position he really wanted was as a brand manager in a foreign office. 

With that goal in mind, he began to observe the other overseas brand managers at his company, and noticed what skills they possessed, and what made some of them successful and others less successful.  This observation allowed him to realize that he needed more knowledge of foreign languages to secure his ideal job, so he took night classes in Spanish.  By identifying a goal and working towards it, he was soon promoted to the brand manager job he wanted; if he had continued to drift, it would have taken much longer, if it had happened at all.

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