The foundation of a personal career management plan is setting goals and determining the steps to achieve those goals. Few people know their professional goals at an early age; most “figure it out” as they go. But too many do what is available and ultimately do not reach their full potential.

In our travels, we understand it is difficult to reach any destination without a map. So too is it difficult to achieve a personal or professional goal without a plan. The plan should start as early as possible. Every day our actions and decisions either further our journey to achieve a goal, or they push us off track.

Both education and experience are important. We know that education requires us to commit to completing a course or program. But how do you get the experience? What if you need a certain type of experience (i.e. people management), but your current job does not offer that opportunity?

Each of us is actually given the opportunity every day to show who we are. Some of the greatest leaders I have known did not have Manager, Director, or Vice-President in their title. They were the “go to” people. They are the people who always go above and beyond. They are investigative, enterprising, entrepreneurial, and self-motivated. They are the people who don’t wait to be told what to do, but always take the initiative to make things better. These leaders achieve results, accomplish more, stay late, arrive early, and rise above the crowd. I have often seen those people as the ones who receive opportunities; the ones who get experiences others do not. The ones who move more quickly towards their goal. It is not just about the tasks these leaders accomplish, but also the relationships that they create. Those who naturally make the work environment better, because they are there. Those who do not “stir the pot”. The number one thing I have noted is that those who work hard and want to get ahead are also the people who have learned to accept criticism. They take feedback, understand what it means, and learn from it. Those are the people who have earned their opportunity and therefore enjoy the experience.