Three Steps to Proactive Career Planning


We at Moving Up in America consistently urge high tech professionals to develop a career plan that corresponds to the realities of the market for your skills.

Here we discuss in more detail a key recommendation in The Start-Up of You, co-authored by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, which we have previously reviewed.

The recommended ABZ approach to career planning is an important tool to accelerate your career.

The ABZ approach offers a framework for proactively pursuing a career, taking risks, and, at the same time, protecting against the downside associated with these risks.

It involves developing a plan, being persistent in implementing the plan, and being flexible when conditions change.

Plan A: Experiment and Adjust

Plan A calls for adopting an experimental approach to your current job and career path. You consistently plan two steps ahead of where you are.

You do this by committing to learning everything you possibly can about yourself and about your job. And you make adjustments accordingly. For example, you realize that you are basically shy but your job calls for more and more interaction with others. And the two steps ahead of the present calls for demonstrated leadership skills.

So here’s what you do in Plan A:

  • Ask a senior person to mentor you: to give you feedback and recommend resources.

  • Take classes on leadership and management.

  • Attend Toastmaster meetings to improve your presentation skills.

  • Research various paths to a mangement position.

Plan B: Pivot to an Adjacent Job Niche

Plan B is what you pivot to when you need to change your goal or your path to this goal.

Plan B is in the same general area as Plan A, but it is in an adjacent job niche. It builds on what you have learned in Plan A, while you were continually experimenting and making adjustments.

You may decide to pivot to Plan B because you have found a greater opportunity in an adjacent area. Or you may have been laid off, your job eliminated by new technology that automated your job. Or your job and the industry have been offshored.

Hopefully, you have anticipated these changes and have been able to voluntarily pivot to Plan B. In this case, you may have been able to proactively prepare for these changes by working on your “soft skills,” or learning a new technology that will allow you to pivot to an adjacent niche.

Plan Z: A Lifeboat

Plan Z is your backup plan that allows you to take the necessary risks associated with advancing your career with Plan A and Plan B.

It is your lifeboat.

If you are young and single, Plan Z may mean getting a job at Starbucks and moving back in with your parents. If you are older and have a family, Plan Z may be cashing in on your 401 K.

Because of the volatile job market, Plan A and B may necessarily involve a certain amount of uncertainty. Plan Z provides you with a highly certain plan, a lifeboat, that allows to you act aggressively and to take risks that are often necessary for achieving success with Plan A and B.

It helps you deal with worst case scenarios, such as going bankrupt or becoming homeless. It helps you avoid these unacceptable outcomes.

In any case, Plan Z is not a long term plan. But, if your worst case scenario comes to pass, you have already prepared a solution. Plan Z provides you with the opportunity to retreat, reflect, and then go on to develop a new Plan A.

ABZ Approach + Deep Networks

When using the ABZ approach, successful professionals must continually build deep networks of allies and tap these networks for information about what’s happening in the world, according to Hoffman.

Networks are the source of key resources, opportunities, and information.

Take action now to manage your careers. You can start by envisioning your desired future, setting concrete goals, and actively shaping situations you find yourself in so you can achieve your goals.

In summary, being proactive is the key to your career success.

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