I‘ve been a long-time fan of Stephen Covey’s classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is one of those books which you can read over and over, and get something new out of every time. I had that experience again recently when listening to the audio version of the book on a 4 hour ride home from New Jersey. He said something which I realized instantly applied to the subject of career planning and goals. In my case, I was thinking about pharmacy careers. I do that a lot. Not merely for myself, but also for other professionals whom I interact with and try to help give some career advice.
One of Stephen Covey’s chapters deals with the 4 areas we tend to spend our time on in life and business. He’s talking about time-management. He’s talking about putting “first things first.” He divides our time and activities into 4 quadrants. Everything we do, he says, falls into one of these 4 areas. Quadrant 1 are the fires that have to be put out immediately and urgently. They can’t be ignored and demand our immediate attention (think “mother with screaming child waiting for her prescription to be filled.”). Quadrant 2 deals with areas of planning for things that are important, but are not urgent right now. Quadrant 3 are all those things which you really need to do, but are not all that important in the grand scheme of life. And finally, Quadrant 4 are the time-wasters and mindless activities (think video games, TV, etc.) that are neither urgent nor important.
Effective people, according to Stephen Covey, try to live in Quadrant 2. Through careful planning, delegation and priority-setting, they minimize the “urgent/important” things that intrude into their schedule and take up lots of precious time. They also recognize all the unimportant things (quadrants 3 & 4) and try to do little or nothing in these areas. They aren’t important. Don’t worry about them.
As I was thinking about this method of evaluating our time, it occurred to me that CAREER PLANNING and CAREER GOALS are truly QUADRANT 2 activities. What do you really want out of your career? Where would you like to be in 5 years? 10 years? If a job offer came your way today, how would you evaluate that opportunity? The point is this: People can easily stumble into a JOB, but obtaining a truly GREAT and SATISFYING career typically takes planning and effort. This is where “Quadrant 2” comes in to play. We must focus a significant portion of our efforts into managing our careers in this area. We need to be doing things now that are not urgent, but nonetheless guide our career into the direction we want to be going.
What is Quadrant 2 Career Planning?
Ever since working with students at a local college of Pharmacy as a clinical preceptor I have made it my hobby and passion to study career-building and career options for pharmacists. There are many career paths we can travel down. But there are certain things that EVERY person can and (in my opinion) SHOULD be doing to help keep their career moving in the way YOU want it to go. Let me share 5 of them with you.
5 Quadrant 2 Career Planning Activities:
1) Write a Mission Statement. A what? That’s right. Write a mission statement. As has been often said in various ways “if you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time.” With respect to your career, sit down and write out a specific mission statement that details exactly where you want to be and what you want to do. If you need help with this, contact me!
2) Excel where you are at. I am thoroughly convinced this is one of the areas that many individuals miss the boat and fall short of their career goals. They hate their job. As a result, while looking for something else, they become lazy and sloppy in their current position. This is a big mistake. Listen: Excellence Brings Opportunities. Write that down. Pin it to your desk or wall or counter. The fastest and most effective way into a GREAT career is GREAT performance in your current job.
3) Network. I was talking to a young 1st year pharmacy student just the other day. She had all the starry-eyed ambitions that I once had myself. I hated to burst her bubble. But I had to tell her (because her school of pharmacy will NOT) that the job market for pharmacists is evaporating. What is the answer? Well, the full answer is the subject of another post, but for now – NETWORKING. If you are not sure what that means, read my Networking for Pharmacists 101 article.
4) Setup some job agents. Go to several of the major job boards like GetHired, Indeed, Monster, Jobs.com, etc. and set up an account. Nearly all these big sites will allow you to create a FREE search agent that will email you jobs based on certain key-words. The value of this is not simply to “find” another job. The value is in seeing the TYPE of jobs being offered, the names of employers that exist and the career options that are all around you.
5) Prepare for that Career now. What are the skills that someone in your dream job needs? What are the experiences that someone in that career would benefit from? Begin to add such things to your portfolio. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” You need to be creative here. Sure, it would be great if you could be mentored by the leading expert in that particular field – but it isn’t likely to happen. BUT – can you read a book about some aspect of that job or career? Could you, then, maybe write an article on that and post it on your blog or a friend’s blog or on some other social networking site? Could you maybe take an evening course or two related to that future job? This is PURE QUADRANT 2 my friends. Important stuff…but not urgent. Doing it NOW, while you have the luxury of planning and preparing, is the key to career success.
This post only scratched the surface of this concept. There is much more that can and should be said. But suffice it to say that when we give more of our time to the IMPORTANT and NON-URGENT things, we are in better control of our careers. Constantly putting out fires will not lead to progress. And wasting time on unimportant activities that do not bring value to your future is useless. Start this habit today, and let’s see where you end up!
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