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When It Comes To Goals And Career—Keep A "Budget"

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For effective goal planning you need an outline to follow and a log of results to keep you accountable; i.e., you need to both budget and track.

You budget the time, money and energy you are dedicating to the goal. You track how you actually end up using these resources and what happens from these efforts. The budget helps you foresee if your plans are realistic and estimate the resources you may need. The tracking helps keep you honest so you can do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

For a job search, your time budget may cover research, networking, job interviews, mailings and follow-up. Your money budget may cover stationery, postage, interview wear, trade dues, and coaching. Your energy budget should plot out when you are at your peak (so you can do your meetings and calls then) and when you are not (so you can use this time for mailings or less demanding tasks).

A journal or Excel spreadsheet can track your daily activities, sources of job leads and subsequent results. Be honest about how much targeted networking you are doing versus responding to blind ads. Maybe one feels safer than the other, but it may not be yielding the leads you need. Or, maybe your tracking will prove that you are doing just fine and affirm that you need to stick to it.

For a career change, your time budget needs to account for time spent on your current career (if you’re keeping it), as well as the specific activities for your transition (e.g., coaching, informational interviews). It is easy to get overwhelmed by the day-to-day and push off the transition work for a “less busy” time. Your money budget may be the cost of new training or it may be a savings target you set to buy yourself some time off.

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Remember to budget your energy. If you are serious about switching careers, don’t use up all of your energy at your current job. Save energy for activities related to your new career. Finally, track every idea, suggestion, activity and result. Big changes take time. Without a system to track progress, you may think you are standing still when actually things are happening. On the flip side, without tracking you may find it’s year-end and you are nowhere closer to making a move than when you started.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

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