Develop a career roadmap

Write a 5-year plan that works

I read a front page Wall Street Journal article that had an unnerving effect on me almost two years ago. Titled, “The End of Employees,” it described how American companies were rapidly downsizing their workforces while outsourcing at a record pace.

The article confirmed what I observed and experienced during my career. For years, I had led communications for several restructuring programs, divestitures and turnaround initiatives – often looking for creative ways to tell these difficult stories with compassion and understanding.

Today, we continue to hear stories in our community about companies heading down this rocky path. So, how do we remain strong while preparing for this reality?

I’ve discovered that if you have a roadmap for navigating down a winding and sometimes bumpy career path, you will increase your chances for staying on track. You’ll also likely have a very satisfying and exciting journey, despite a few challenges along the way.

Don’t Wait

In my final year of grad school (about 25 years ago), a professor required me to create a five-year career plan. He asked my class to look five years out and plan in reverse order. The instructor recommended that after the term ended, we read the career plan at least every six months and keep the plan updated.

It Works

Not only did I follow my plan, but to my surprise, I reached my goals in three years, two years earlier than expected.

Since that time, I have maintained an updated career plan and refined my approach. My process involves clearly identifying what I want, when I expect to get it, listing obstacles, identifying the people I need to work with, defining a plan of action, and determining why I want it. The late Zig Ziglar taught similar principles many years ago.

Not only do I write it down, but I frequently read and update the plan. For my business Herta LLC, I also developed a 2020 vision along with a purpose (mission), guiding principles, how I work and – most importantly – principles to live by.

Will everything go as planned? Absolutely not. Life happens. But, by identifying strategic options in your plan, it’ll help in determining which roads to explore.

Prepare for Rough Terrain

Similar to what I learned from my parents, grandparents and teachers:

  • Surround yourself with people of integrity
  • Be a student – never stop learning
  • Be a mentor and a giver – pay it forward
  • Know your real friends – they’re the ones who are there when times are tough
  • Listen to feedback from others, but don’t be discouraged by the negative
  • Separate yourself from those who are a bad influence
  • Log your progress – positive and negative
  • Have confidence – “do things afraid”

4 F’s for Life Balance

Most importantly, I believe you can only be highly effective if you are grounded in core values. That means you consistently need to strive for fulfilling your purpose within a framework of priorities. I live by four principles, which I call my 4 F’s – Faith, Family, Fitness and Finances.

Packaging it All Together

Activating a strategic roadmap and consistently living within priorities (actions) will result in a promising and fulfilling life and career that will not only guide you, but will give more to others.

Zig Ziglar said it best, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”


Robert Herta

President, Herta LLC Communications + Marketing

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