First Things First: Sharpen your Axe

Mark Fitzgerald of The Sandler Sales Institute puts out a weekly newsletter for his Entrepreneur Club. Mark is smart and witty and his newsletters are always a worthwhile read. 

His latest post contained this little gem …

Abraham Lincoln famously said, "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe". We've all heard the quotation. How many of us act on the words? 

Of course, I thought about those words in the context of career management

Sharpening the axe would seem to suggest that one would not wait until they were kicked to the curb (and for many these days the pink slip is delivered with little or no warning) before giving a panicked thought to what they should do first. Rather, much as CFOs create a 3 to 5-year business plan and execute that plan, it would make sense to give that same intentionality to their careers. 

Before you NEED to … give some thought to 

–What’s next?

–When do I want to move?

–How do I get there?

Being in the driver’s seat of your carer will be so much easier if you just do the first things first.

A Business Plan for Your Career

It was a very interesting discussion in the CFO–Career–Forum yesterday. Recruiter Tim Norstrem and I were discussing the merits of having a career management plan … a business plan for your career.

Tim suggested that your plan should include

––a clear vision of your industry / discipline,
––an “admission” of your strengths (interesting word choice and great insight in the follow up discussion),
––your unique basket of skills (i.e., personal brand),
––a solid networking strategy, and
––a compelling value proposition and the ability to articulate it.

According to the 2007 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report,

––Executives stayed 2.7 years in a single job, 3.3 years with a company, and 4.2 years in the same industry.

––Corporate HR professionals identify 14 months as a critical point of demarcation for the newly–hired executive where the excitement wanes and dissatisfaction creeps in – and 35% see the disengagement occur in fewer than 10 months.

If an executive is unhappy in his new position in a year or less, chances are good he probably didn’t have a very good plan or more likely, any plan in place. While the unexpected can happen in a new position that can lead to early dissatisfaction, clearly this is not a welcomed trend. It seems to me that having a career plan in place would ensure that the next move was well–researched, well–thought out, and designed to help him achieve his longer–term goal.

Additionally, the average executive job search is 21.6 weeks. What Tim said to me after the call was significant … having a solid career management plan can reduce an executive’s time on the market to zero days.

If you know you are going to be moving every 3–5 years, doesn’t it make sense to be prepared to make that move? Imagine never having to conduct a job search again, and all because you chose to run your career like you run your company.