I just completed a 12-month long Faculty Fellows program at the university where I teach. In addition to attending several workshops geared towards faculty development, and creating a Teaching Philosophy Statement (TPS), I was also charged with putting together a Faculty Development Plan (FDP). I found it to be very beneficial, not only to my career, but to my personal development as well.
As timing would have it, I was working on the completion of my FDP around the same time as I happen to be meeting with a couple of former students seeking career advice, and some potential clients to discuss the possibility of working together. I talked to all of them about the importance of first knowing where it is they wanted to go, so that they could develop a plan on how to get there. In the Artist Management class I teach, I often refer to this with my students as having a map that outlines the pathway to their plan. My analogy would typical begin with me giving them a destination — we’re all going to Montana — and then asking them how do we get to Montana (without booking a flight)? I then would tell them that simply jumping into the car and hitting the highway was not the answer. Because if they left Nashville, TN heading East, they would never reach their destination of Montana. And even if they headed west, they would still need to know which roads to take, how far away was the destination, the actual directions for ending up in the right place in Montana, and then have a plan for how they would fund their trip (i.e. gas, overnight hotel stays, etc.).
A student who graduates without any indication of what they want to do makes it difficult for someone trying to help them land a job interview, or pass their resume on to the right company. Likewise, someone launching a company, ministry, or other service, needs to have an idea of what is is they want to do; who it is they want to reach; and how they plan to reach them? Otherwise, they may end up wading through the swamps of the Carolina Lowcountry instead of climbing snow peaked mountains of Colorado!
So a few things occurred to me as I put the finishing touches on the first draft of my faculty development plan. The first was how difficult it was to outline what I wanted to do, when I wasn’t 100 percent certain about how I ended up doing what I was already doing. Trying to outline what my faculty plan was for the next year needed to take into consideration what my overall plan was for my career as a Professor. I had not consciously thought about where it was I wanted to be, or what exactly I wanted to be doing one, five, and even 10 years from now — other than teaching. But what did that mean? And what did it look like? And how was I planning to accomplish that? Those were the questions I needed to ask myself and dig deeper for the answers. Of course, some aspects of my plan are out of my control. There are certain things the position demands of me to continue moving forward in my career — research, creative activity, community involvement — among others. But the specifics of those things are in part, up to me. I just have to figure out what they are and how I am going to accomplish them.
Setting Goals. Outlining Strategies. Determining action steps. That’s what I teach.
Oftentimes, my students tell me they’re in the Music Business program because they love music and their parents said they had to go to college. Their biggest goal, as far as they’re concerned, is graduating and finding a job. Many of them haven’t a clue as to what or where; as long as they satisfy their parents with a degree, and satisfy their debt by finding a job. But I quickly remind them that without a plan outlining the bigger picture of what they want, they may end up getting only what is within their reach — a degree in one hand, and “just a job” in the other. Without goals to work towards, and strategies to work on, they could end up at ANY job but not at THE job that they expressed a passion for and interest in getting. Indeed many of them are still working the same retail, fast food, part-time jobs that they had in college, one, two, and even three years since graduating from college.
But career planning isn’t just for college students preparing for post-graduation life. Creating a life plan should be important to everyone.
There’s something to be said about writing out your goals. But once those goals are in writing, outlining specific strategies on how to accomplish them will help put action to them. Goals with strategies are just dreams of thing you want, without the commitment of saying exactly how you intended to get them. And for those strategies to be realized, then you have to also DO something. You can’t just say where you want to go and write out of plan on how you want to get there. At some point, you have to get in the car, gas it up, and start driving. The map will tell you where you need to go. But you have to GO!
So that’s where I am. Taking the advice I give my own clients and students. As I put the final touches on the final version of my one-year FDP, I am outlining all of the specific action steps I need to take to accomplish the strategies I’ve written out that are designed to help me achieve the goals that formulated my overall plan.
Where is it you want go? Have you thought about how you’re going to get there? What are you doing to put those thoughts in to action steps to meet your goals?
Do you have a Life Plan?