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Plan to Control Your Career

By Galia Barhava-Monteith

I have a strong interest in the financial and investment market and am keen to further develop myself in this area. I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in accounting and finance. I also have passed my CFA (Charted Financial Analyst) Level one exam and am preparing for level two exam now. My ideal job would be in financial planning, portfolio management, or private banking and I am determined to be a qualified CFA one day.

I am currently working as a Team Leader in a Personal Banking branch. Leadership is the major part of my job, and is not really my passion. Although it is a good experience, I feel I am not using the knowledge I learnt from university and the CFA course and I am not adding value to myself. I can’t see a future in my current role.

This is a common situation and our answer is this: the good news is that being clear in your mind about what you want is the most important aspect of successful goal setting and career development. The next important step is to take control of your career and lead it towards a path that will result in you achieving your ideal role involving financial planning, portfolio management and private banking.

The Art of Goal Setting

The most effective goals are ones that:

  • are clearly defined
  • are written down
  • can be measured

The first thing to do is to define what success means to you career wise – is it “in five years’ time, I want to be a private banker in a major bank with a portfolio of high net worth individuals?” or “I want to specialise in looking after the investment portfolio of organisations” or is it something else? Give it some thought, and write it down! I recommend either having a written road-map or starting your professional diary. Research consistently demonstrates that the most successful people are excellent at goal setting – they define their goals and they write them down and commit to them.

Next, brainstorm as many pathways as possible for achieving your goal. Pathways are the different routes that can get you to the same goal. Some might involve you staying with your current employer and moving sideways into other areas and others might involve you seeking a new employer and a completely different role. It is best to do that with someone else, a trusted colleague, a mentor or a knowledgeable friend.

Don’t discount any of the pathways at this point, and again it is best to write them all down in your diary. An example of a pathway may be to move into a more central branch and take portfolios which might include large net worth clients. It is best to do this exercise with someone who either knows a lot about your work reality or can ask you some insightful questions.
Once you’ve written them down, it is time to evaluate them. Which align most with your strengths and your passions? Which are the most actionable? Which are the ones you can start on now and which might come later on in your career?

This is an incredibly valuable exercise for career planning. Revisit your pathways regularly and evaluate their merits again and over time.

Obstacles

It is important to identify potential obstacles in achieving your goal and once you’ve done that, use brainstorming to come up with the best ways for you to overcome them. An example of a potential obstacle in the example above is the time required for you to ‘lead’ the team. A potential way to overcome that may be negotiating some time to put aside towards achieving your CFA desire. If you know that you can spend time towards achieving your goal whilst taking leadership responsibilities, you will probably find it more rewarding.

As you get closer to achieving your goal you will be faced with new obstacles. The challenge is to recognise them and come up with actionable solutions. And also know that at times the obstacles may result in you abandoning a particular path and moving to try a new one. The key is not to punish yourself for failing but to take the lessons and use them going forward!

Kaizen

I discovered the kaizen principle a while back in a book called What Happy Women Know. It is a Japanese principle whereby you break down a big goal into small manageable chunks and concentrate on achieving one sub-goal at a time. You also take the time to enjoy each part of the process. I think this is a wonderful way to think about your ultimate career goal.

Communicating

A final thought is: who have you told about your aspirations and desires? You may have communicated them to your boss, and perhaps to a member of your Human Resources team. They should be in a good position to help you think through pathways to your goal. It’s in their interests to keep a talented individual engaged and moving toward clearly held goals.

If you feel this communication isn’t leading to your desired new opportunities fast enough, though, think about spreading the word more widely. You need to do this in a positive spirit, of course!

Specifically, you could look around for networking opportunities. Are there ways you can see to connect with people working in the areas that particularly interest you? Are there projects that you could join that would bring you into contact with people in these areas? Lastly, ask yourself if there are people you know who might be willing to share their experiences with you, and perhaps even mentor you?

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