• Gustavo Serbia

Meet VUCA. The Reason Why You Must Have an Active Career Plan


I hate to start with this; we need a plan to take control of our career growth and development. Yep, that dreaded step suggested by experts from all sectors and areas. These experts say a plan is the starting point to nearly everything in life, including our careers. However, why is career planning so important? What is the driving force behind this shift and the need for an active career planning process, not just an improvised one or one that remains in your head?

Say 'hola' to VUCA

Before we discuss career planning, let me introduce you to VUCA. The term VUCA refers to:

  • Volatility - the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.

  • Uncertainty - the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.

  • Complexity - the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain, and confusion that surround an organization.

  • Ambiguity - the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

The term was originally used by the military to describe the unpredictable world. The term is also being used to describe today’s work environment, which has changed over the last few years and requires a new way of thinking and acting.

VUCA and the new normal

Companies face new expectations around technology and its constant evolution, cultural shifts and norms, government regulations, globalization, and many other internal and external forces. This means that the way work gets done today and how is executed has changed and will continue to be so at a very rapid pace.

The VUCA environment also has new leadership requirements. These new demands are no longer limited to those in leadership roles. This new direction also involves leadership of self; of our abilities, knowledge, and skills. Through self-development, self-discovery, self-motivation, and self-direction we can develop our leadership skills.

To meet today's expectations around leadership and the way of doing work, companies are looking for ways to realign and even reinvent themselves. Like these organizations, we must learn, adapt, and perhaps reinvent ourselves, to remain employable. No longer can we sit idle thinking that things will happen just because, or because we deserved them, or that they will be there tomorrow. Actions must accompany our thoughts, and this is where career planning must become a central part of our professional (and personal) life.

This is the new normal!

Passive career planning

Career planning is a pretty straightforward process involving three steps:

  1. Knowing yourself: exploring interests and abilities, what we like or don’t like, our strengths/weaknesses, and our values and mission.

  2. Establishing goals: defining what we want to accomplish; what positions, what companies, what benefits, etc., and by when.

  3. Designing action plans: identifying what we need to learn and be able to do to achieve our goals, as well as the steps (the plan) we will take.

While many of us probably develop plans for our career, we likely do it in a passive manner. By passive I mean we rely primarily on the organization and our managers to design the plan, rather than us taking control of the planning process. Even if we decide to take control of our careers, we dedicate a tiny amount of time to the planning and formalizing process. The time devoted to activities such as self-development, goal setting, and writing our career plans is minuscule, especially when compared to other activities we undertake that do not have the same return on investment.

For example, we spend more time watching Netflix (and discussing what to watch), than on the process that gives us the ability to pay for Netflix. In this sense, we have it backward. We will spend a significant part of our lives at work, so we must quickly increase the time and focus we dedicate to career planning.

Active career planning

Now, moving to an active career planning process is where the rubber meets the road. To shift to an active career planning process, we must first accept that we are in control; we are the CEOs of our careers! Then, we must shift from talking and thinking about career goals and plans, to undertaking these two additional steps:

4. Documenting career plans - formally documenting everything related to the first three steps; spending time identifying in writing the what, where, when, why and how of our goals.

5. Ongoing review and assessment - continually examining and updating the written plans to ensure these meet the new and ever-changing demands of the new normal.

Let's get to it

To be prepared for this VUCA world, we must dedicate ample time, at work and away, to activities that will help us achieve our goals. The work environment has changed and will continue to change. We must move from a passive career planning approach to an active one. We must get serious about self-analysis (and any other self-compounding word you can think of), goal setting, the skills we need, and the training and education we must undertake to achieve our goals. At the same time, we must document and review the plans put in place so we can remain employable and on top of our game regardless of the VUCA environment. This is no longer optional. This too is the new normal for us. Let’s get to it.

Your journey, your career. Own it.

I work in human resources at Crescent Hotels & Resorts. For more on my content follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. I will respond to your comments and feedback.

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