Career Stations – Where is your stop?

Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

Train Stations in Barcelona Spain

A few days ago, I was reflecting and reviewing my five-year career plan.  It is year three of my five-year plan and I’m about to extend the plan.   I started this process 12 years ago.  The plan helped me focus on my goal and at the same time acts as a guide for me to track where I’m in relation to my target.    

As I analyzed my current state, it dawned on me that a career is like a train that can stop at many stations.   Each station has requisite skill sets that need to be accomplished before you can move up to the next station.    People make choices to get on and off at each station.   In order to succeed, the person must commit to learning new things and invest the time to learn new things. 

Here is the list of career stations:

Apprentice – the people in this station are usually new graduates or people who transitioned from one job to another.   At this stage, the person needs to know the fundamentals of the business.  He/She needs to learn the process and work closely with someone to get the job done.    The willingness and eagerness are high, but the competency is low.   With proper guidance the person can flourish to be an effective contributor.

Contributor – the people at this station are knowledgeable and understand how to get the day-to-day job done.   They are effective in their role and require minimal supervision.   In most case, they can help in other tasks and contribute new ideas.

Analyst – the people at this station have a good understanding of their departmental function and are able to work closely with other departments.   They usually serve as representatives and interface with other department.   Their in-depth knowledge helps aid in getting things done. At this stage, the person has high commitment and competency.

Team Leader – the people at this station are the leader of the team.  They are the ones that guide the team to accomplish its goal.  People at this level are great executors.   They can carry out the assignment and get it done with the help of everyone on their team.    They are great tactical managers. They will do the thing right.    In my experience, for most people this would be their last stop.   Because the competition at the next level is a lot tougher, one has to be in the right place and at the right time in order to succeed.

Strategist – the people in this station are the visionary of the company.  They are the ones that come up with the roadmap.  These people can see opportunity when others see chaos.   They have a different perspective and viewpoint.  

The leap from team leader to strategist is a big one.  To be able to transition, one must learn to see the other perspective.  The best way to develop your skill is to work with a mentor.  Find someone you emulate and respect and work with them to help you develop this skill.   

To keep things in perspective, one’s happiness should not be tied to one’s job or career.   There are many people who are happy to stay in the contributeur or analyst station.  There are perhaps equal numbers of people who eager to be team leaders.   Enjoy your journey and make the most of your time in each of the station.  Help others grow and share your knowledge and expertise.

It is my personal belief that being a strategist is great.   Because you have the vision and can create roadmap.  But it is not the means to an end.    I would like to emphasize that, in order for anyone to move to the next station, they need to invest the time, money and learn new things to improve their overall capabilities.   In life, we either pay now or later, but either way we have to pay.  Put in the time to learn new things everyday and develop your overall capabilities.   Create a plan, track your progress and adjust it accordingly.    The career plan can help guide you toward achieving your goal.

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