Five Tips for Creating a Strategic Career Plan

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If you have just graduated from college with a communications degree, you may be finding it tough to find a job. Join the club. With the unemployment rate hovering around 9.2%, and the economy struggling, college graduates, along with the thousands of unemployed communications hopefuls, are vying for the few jobs that are available.

You can be frustrated or depressed about the job situation. Or, you can take the opportunity to step back and do some career strategic planning. One way to do that is to search senior level positions and look at the requirements for the positions. There you will find the steps or milestones needed to qualify for one of those positions. With a strategic career plan, by the time you’re ready for the executive suite, you will have accumulated the right credentials and experience.

I came across a job opening for a Senior Director of Customer Communications at JP Morgan Chase on According to the job description, the Senior Director has ownership of the Chase Brand, and is in charge of all customer communications. The job description is long, with lots of information about the job, the company and the culture. The job requirements can be used to set short and long-term goals for your dream career in communications. Here are a few and how they can help with your strategic career plan.

1. 12+ years of broad experience in Marketing, Operations and Communications. Staying in one job too long won’t give you diverse experience. Look for opportunities to cross-train or take lateral moves to broaden your experience. And, you can do this is as little as 12 years. A college grad at 22 could be ready for the top spot by age 34.
2. Experience with a Fortune 500 Company preferred. Do some research to see what Fortune 500 companies are in your area, and who is hiring. Target those companies that can give you an edge.
3. Strong financial/business acumen. Executives in any discipline have to be able to manage budgets and understand the financial side of the business. Take some courses on business finance and be on the lookout for ways to learn the business side of communications. You may not be a number cruncher, but you need to be able to manage the financial side of the business once you’re in charge.
4. Ability to manage, motivate and develop a high performing team. How are your people skills? At the upper level, your success depends on how well you inspire, motivate and support your team to succeed. You may prefer writing for hours in your office, but most executives spend a lot of time in meetings, coaching and counseling and building relationships with clients. Look for leadership opportunities and training.
5. Change agent who will champion new ideas, challenge conventional approaches, and has the ability to drive change. Are you a risk taker? Do you feel comfortable asking tough questions and going against the flow? Are you flexible and willing to make changes? Business is always looking for the next great idea. If you’re the “we’ve always done it this way” person, you may not be right for the executive suite. Challenge yourself to accept new ways of doing things and stay open to new ideas.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients reinvent their careers for today’s job market. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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