Are you someone who sets your new career goals as Auld Lang Syne finishes the end of a year? Or halfway through the year do you think, ‘I must do something about my future’?

I tend to plan some ten or 20 years ahead – as your goals become more ambitious, you need more evidence and breadth of experience for the best roles. So by planning far ahead, you can think about the skills and track record you might need so you can build these up over time.

Planning for a non-executive role

One example is if you want a non-executive role. The dream for most people is to get a paid role with a prestigious business (though many are rethinking this with the increased risks and burdens of non-exec roles). But unless you have a high profile or are the CEO of a quoted company, for most of us we need to build a track record of experience first to win these.

This is especially the case if you run a small business.

I started thinking properly about non-executive roles about 15 years ago. I knew I had made a mistake – I had been approached to sit on a prestigious university’s main Council five years previously and stupidly turned it down. These things don’t come by often so my first tip is, grab opportunities this year if they come to you. When I was ready to take on a role, the right ones weren’t around. It took a lot more time than I expected. But that was okay. Because I was planning far ahead, I had time on my side and could take a few delays and setbacks in stride.

What skills will you need?

I heard Virginia Bottomley, chair of headhunters Odgers Berndston, give a talk a few years ago about how women should position themselves for non-exec roles. She said to analyse the roles on a board – audit committee, noms committee, mergers and acquisitions activity, international growth strategy etc. – and then ask, where do I add value?

This is good advice for any of your career goals, whether you want a promotion, take on voluntary work, or move into a whole new career. Read advertisements for jobs or roles you would like and see what they are asking by way of experience. Talk to headhunters and ask for advice about what you need. Talk to friends about their experiences.

Build your personal brand to achieve these career goals

This blog on How to Create your Personal Brand will give you more details, but the key point if you are planning career goals for 2017 is to ask – does my personal brand match my career aspirations? Think about what you need to be known for, are you seen as a thought leader in this field – again there is more here in Why you should be a thought leader – in business, the arts, your career or your hobby.

Two tips. Go on to Google and search for yourself. What comes up? Imagine you are a stranger, what would you say about yourself? Write down what personal brand is coming across for you. Check your LinkedIn profile – does it have personality and reflect your brand?

Then ask a few good friends to do the same. Do they think your profiles match you – and more importantly, your ambitions?

Update your CV/resume for your career goals

I have been helping a lot of chief executives and directors to achieve their career goals. For many, they have reached their 50s or 60s without ever having gone out actively looking for a job and now want a portfolio career.

Their CVs are usually quite shocking, simply because they haven’t needed one to sell themselves for many years. What are the main faults of their CVs?

  • The CVs are written as a narrative of their working life, not focusing on the experience and stories to support their career goal or a particular position.
  • They haven’t pulled out the experience that will be relevant to the role they are seeking – as an example, for a non-executive role they need to bring out non-executive track record. Sounds obvious?! So it needs to include committees they have sat on, difficult board challenges and how they dealt with them, and their particular board experience. I just overhauled my CV this year for non-exec roles and pulled out what I can bring to a board with the help from Women on Boards (if you can make their CV Masterclasses in London, they are really excellent). As a result, on my non-exec part of the CV, it now starts with this wording below – and you will see I have pulled out three key words at the top (digital strategy, stakeholder relationships and entrepreneurship) for ease of identifying particular skills/value.

  • The CVs I have seen are usually much too long – they are trying to jam in everything they have ever done rather than being strategic in what they pick out from their career. You will probably need to bin most of your early career or sum it up in one sentence.
  • Little structure – a good style is to separate out executive and non-executive roles and put each of these on one side. Two pages is the maximum length.
  • Danielle Dayries has some great tips on writing a resume when you are over 50. I am also a fan of Mrs. Moneypenny, a friend of mine, who has written Careers Advice for Ambitious Women.
  • career goals / advice

Start networking to achieve specific career goals

Once you have written down your career goals, think who can help you with these. Jot down what information you need, what research, who should you meet and influence. Then, draw up a plan to make it happen this year.

Plan for your career goals in 2017

So, how do you pull all this together?

  • Where do you want to be this year, next year and in five, ten and 20 years time? Write it all down. You probably want details for this year and some bigger picture ideas for the longer term.
  • For each of your goals, write against them:
    • What skills do you need to achieve that career goal? What are your gaps, what do you need to do to fill those gap?
    • Will you need a CV for your career goals? Update it to be ready. Get headhunters or experienced friends to critique it.
    • What information and research do you need – who can help you with this? What do you need to do?
    • With whom do you need to network?
    • What personal brand do you need?
    • Do you need to do more to ensure your online profile will help you achieve these goals?
  • Think about refreshing what you do. Every few years I rethink what networks and events I belong to – are they still working, am I making the most of them, do I need new ones? Also, push yourself to raise your profile. I started the year thinking I must do more with my BBC expert woman role – so on Thursday I went on BBC Breakfast TV to talk about Brexit and the opportunities. I have had emails, texts, tweets and more from people I know in Strasbourg, Italy, and across the UK.  It is good for my brand and reminds people I am around.  What can YOU do?!
  • If you have a clear plan, then it will help you to decide if you should take unexpected opportunities as they arrive – I would nearly always say yes! Good luck for 2017!  And do contact us to share your successes and learning– Prime Women always welcomes great stories from new contributors.

Related Post

About The Author

Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive of Northern Lights PR. Former director of Ernst & Young, a BBC ‘expert woman’ and media commentator, Victoria has particular expertise in strategic social media. How to write a Top-ranked Business Blog is an Amazon bestseller. Victoria chairs an Advisory board for University of Leeds and sits on the Board of Northern Ballet.