What Is Your Career Statement?

By DonShook

Do you have a career statement? Some call it an “elevator pitch”. Regardless of what you call it, do you have something that you can definitively say at a moment’s notice that will clearly outline your career goals and your path to get there?

How about something more simple: Are you the type of person that makes plans for a weekend? I have a great friend and in our younger days we went out 2-3 nights every weekend. We would get the local events newspaper on Wednesday and plan out our weekend accordingly. There would be times when unexpected events altered our plans, but we always had a plan. On Thursdays I would start recruiting – telling other friends about the great weekend we had planned and tried to convince them to come and play. By Friday at 5 PM, we were implementing our plan to it’s fullest with everyone we could bring along.

To this day, I’m still a planner. By Thursday I can tell you what my weekend holds. I can tell you what I’m doing, where I’m going, who else will be there, and how excited I am about the prospect of my plans. If I don’t have plans by Thursday, much to my wife’s chagrin, I probably won’t do muck more than watch football and veg on the couch.

Some people are not planners. They don’t care to plan out great activities but prefer to go with a flow. Maybe they have friends like me who are planners, so there is no need to plan for themselves. Others don’t make plans and they don’t do anything because of it. Regardless, there is no right or wrong way to dispose of a weekend.

Careers are a little bit like a big weekend. Right now, I can definitively tell you what my goals are, how I plan to achieve them, and how excited I am about the prospect of putting it all in place. I call it a Career Statement simply because it’s a statement about the direction of my career path. It’s definitive. It’s measurable. It has a path.

Just like weekends, though, there are others who have made no plan. For whatever reason, they don’t take advantage of the information surrounding them to find the right job and industry to meet their needs. Unlike weekends, careers MUST be planned in advance for them to work right. Sure, you could wind up in a great career, making the money you deserve, and love every second of the 30-40 years of work. Of course, your odds of this happening are somewhere between getting struck by lightning (1 in 750,000) or winning the lottery (Powerball Jackpot is 1 in 195,249,054).

To really make your career work, you start by picking a livelihood that will require your skills and interests. I can change the brakes on my car, but I prefer not to – I’m not interested. Me being a mechanic of any sort would involve my skill and not my interests. This is not a good career combination but it’s one for which too many people have settled. Just because one CAN do a job does not mean that they SHOULD do a job.

This explains high rates of career dis-satisfaction and career jumping. Consciously choose your profession and I guarantee with 99.999% of my being that you will not experience a high level of career dis-satisfaction. Additionally, I firmly believe you will be less likely to career hop like most people do. If you need help picking a career, let me know and I will help you find your career needle in the haystack of careers you don’t want.

Once you pick your career, pick an industry that meets your interests. If you love accounting and outdoors events, why would you work in a cubicle with no window? In case you don’t know, accountants work in every field: Park Services, athletic organizations, campgrounds, oceanfront condos, you name it!

Apply your skills in an area that fully utilizes your interests. It’s really the only way to go. This is probably news to you because – without having performed an official survey – most people don’t know that it’s possible to combine skills and interests in their career. Find someone that has successfully combined their skills and interests in their career, and they will probably open your eyes like Neo in The Matrix.

Now that you have a career and industry, find out where you are on the map and draw a straight line to your goal. Along the way you will see that there are clear steps to take to get from where you are to where you want to go. You may not be able to identify each step along the way, but you should be able to see the next two or three right away. Necessary steps could be getting more training, finishing a degree, or just getting a foot in the door at the right company. Whatever it is, find the next step and start to take it. With one step, you are on the right path!

So by now you have identified where you are, you’ve identified where you want to go, and you’ve identified the next few steps to achieve your goal, you have created your Career Statement! Now you have to tell your Career Statement to everyone. Seriously! If you have a Career Statement and you don’t make it your Facebook status at least once a month, you are shortchanging your career.

Let me make this clear – tell EVERYONE your career statement. Telling everyone who you think might be able to help you is common sense. Take it a step further. Tell anyone who might have a brother/Aunt/fifth cousin twice removed who could help you. You don’t really know if they can help you until you let them know your goals.

Here’s an example from my life: I love sports and had applied for a position with a baseball team. This was a really big position and I wanted it badly. I didn’t know anyone that worked there so any attempt at what I call “instant networking” with the company’s decision makers would have been seen as conniving.

As a side note, networking only works when you have history. If I just met you, how can I recommend a job to you or send a referral? If we have a history, I can make a recommendation based on what I know and it will carry weight because I can provide examples to a decision maker.

Anyway, back to my experience. There was literally one person that I knew that loved baseball. I thought it might be possible that he had attended some games or was a season-ticket holder of this particular team. He and I had a little bit of history together and I knew enough about him to know he loves baseball! I told him of my intention and asked if he knew of anyone in the organization to which I was applying. He didn’t. BUT! He knew a guy who had a brother do an internship there. I’m not making this up! I followed where the open doors led and eventually made a path to someone within the organization. After several months of determined but professional effort (i.e. – not stalking!), I got an interview and eventually got the job.

Could I have gotten that job on my own? Maybe. Did it help that someone I knew, knew someone who knew someone…? You bet. At the minimum, it got my résumé seen. Everything else was on me.

One last tip about the Career Statement: When you are telling everyone you meet about your goals, be sure to leave out all of the “And then…” statements. No busy executive is going to listen to every step of your path. Be concise, be professional, be confident, and most of all be excited.

So, let’s summarize:

1. Find an occupation that utilizes both your skills AND interests

2. Find an industry you love that uses your occupation

3. Identify all the steps you can think of to make your goal happen (This is your Career Statement)

4. Take the first one immediately

5. Tell everyone your Career Statement