(8 minute read)
I used to know a guy who was known for being very ambitious. Let's call him Jim. Whenever Jim had the chance, he would let you know he wanted to become a manager. Jim was a smart guy, and I strongly believe that he had the potential to get the job. There was just one problem: The only way you could know Jim was that ambitious is because he said so. When the oppertunity came for someone to step up into the manager role, Jim was not chosen. Jim became disenchanted and eventually lost his ambition entirely.
What went wrong?
Jim did not start with the end in mind. In other words: He did not Reverse Engineer his career.
Reverse Engineering is the act of setting a detailed goal and tracking back, setting sub-goals and priorities, all the way back to the present time. This way you set your own path. The alternative, working bottom-up is much more difficult. You don't always know which steps you need to take, especially if the endgoal is not perfectly clear.
If this sounds complicated: Bear with me, it will become clear. We'll take Jim as an example.
What could Jim have done?
1. Set the goal
He wants to become a manager. But this needs to become much more detailed. When does he want to achieve this? In one year? 5 years? Does it have to be within the same department? Within the same company even? Does Jim really want to become manager or is he attracted to the corresponding salary or stature? Does Jim just want the authority to get things done?
Getting into the details really helps to find the intrinsic motivation. This can be very different for many people. Becoming a manager is usually not the goal itself, there is more behind this. Asking 'why' helps you get to the bottom of it.
For the sake of example let's say Jim wants to become a manager because he wants the stature of being a manager within the same company.
2. Set the requirements
Imagine Jim in his new role. Once again: Details, details, details! Which experiences does he have? What are his core skills and competencies? What is he wearing? What is he good at? Who does he know?
Let's say in 4 years Jim would see himself very skilled at delegating, people skills and networking. He has experience in running several projects succesfully, talks to the CEO now and again and he dresses casual chic. (Let's be honest here: dressing well does help if you're climbing the corporate ladder)
3. Create actions
Now Jim knows what the end-result is, he can start planning. Let's go through each of the set goals and decide which goals can be optained in which way:
Can you imagine Jim one year from now if he starts working on these actions? Sounds like a step in the right direction, doesn't it? Obviously this is just one example. If you Reverse Engineer your own path it could look a lot different, but the technique stays the same: Start with the end in mind and track back.
I even saved the most important advice for last:
If you are aiming for a certain role, start acting like it right now. Don't expect promotions will come just by doing your current job well, you have to stand out.
Reverse Engineering can be a powerful tool. Use it wisely.
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