I was recently invited to speak at Smart Liberia’s ” Women Empowerment Session” on the topic “ Planning for your future”. The Women Empowerment Session is a round table capacity building event that brings together young entrepreneurs and professionals to discuss the issues that affect and/or stimulate young people and entrepreneurial success. It was an amazing opportunity to share with other young women trying to build their career and impact Liberia and I thought it will also be useful to share my talk with you as well.
“Planning for your future”
In the beginning we learn that we will be successful if we do the following things: go to school, study hard, make good grades, graduate, find a job, work hard in that job, get married have children and live happily ever after.
In Liberia, the reality for young people between the ages 18-35 is very different though. 65% end up graduating high school and college with credentials they cannot defend; about 64% of females get pregnant out of wedlock and drop out of school (some never go back); 80% end up working vulnerable jobs; that’s a job that has no contract, long hours, no insurance or benefits, and irregular salary – this is true for 90% of females. 64% percent will compete for formal jobs and will be turned down, while 50% will start businesses that will fail within five years of operations. Not quite the future we dreamed of, Yikes!
So, why is the reality so different from what we were taught in the beginning?
Well for starters, our parents, teachers, leaders, and country has failed to adequately prepare us. We live in a constantly changing world and the way we were taught to think is outdated; our education system did a poor job helping us develop real marketable skills; the labor market is shrinking because of economic instability; just to name a few.
Do you feel like crying at this point? Don’t, because I’m here to restore hope by showing you how you can prepare to navigate a world that’s constantly changing. To start, lets answer the five most important questions that every successful person has mastered:
- What are you good at?
Knowing what you are not good at is just as important as knowing what you are good at. Some people identify these two early on in life but for others it takes time. If by now you haven’t figured this out yet then you need to assess yourself in terms of your Interest, Passion, Skills, and Talents. This will help you figure out what career path is best for you.
- What do you value?
Values are individual or organization beliefs and they differ from ethics. Ethics are universally accepted morals and standards of behaviors but values are more intimate and personal as they differ from person to person and organization to organization. Defining your personal values and then living by them can help you to feel happier and more fulfilled. Sometimes your choices may not even make sense to other people but what’s important is that you are happy.
- How do you perform?
Different people work and perform differently. Some people do well under pressure while others prefer slow paced and predictable. Some people are great team players while others are loners. Some people are great decision makers while others are great advisers. Many organizations list the types of people they prefer to employ and sometimes we include those traits on our CVs just to get the job but once we’re part of the team we become dissatisfied and sometimes even under perform. Why? Because who we are as professionals and how we perform will clash with the values and performance style of the organization. Deciding on what career and job is best for you requires you considering your performance style, how you learn and how you make decisions.
- Where do you belong?
Answering this question means understanding your passion, personality, preferences and values in relation to work pace, type of work, and work environment. You must go beyond simply defining the ultimate impact and consider what and how you will get the job done. Some people desire the fast paced, high risks, results driven environments while others prefer routine, predictable, detail oriented and secured environments. I like to divide this into two personality profiles: the entrepreneur and the employee. Knowing which of these are you will help you define where you belong as a professional.
- What should you contribute?
Nobody can answer this question. Allowing other people to define what your contribution should be is the number one reason why people are miserable and unhappy. Every person need to define what they want their contribution in life to be and apply that to their life’s work.
Now that we have answered the five most important questions, lets tie everything together using the Feedback analysis
Feedback analysis, the process of setting up objectives for yourself and reviewing how you performed is the best way set small personal growth goals and reach them. When used correctly, it helps professionals get out of their comfort zones while still being in charge of their choices and improves performance as it leads to more informed decisions.
To do it right, take Drucker’s advice: When taking a key decision, write down what you expect to happen. example: If I eat healthier meals, I think I will lose weight. Then implement this plan for 9-12 months and review what actually happened. This process will help you uncover areas where you have strengths and what needs more work. Once you identify your areas of strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to set more realistic goals, make better decisions and continuously improve and reinvent yourself. Feedback then becomes the difference between your intended outcome, and the one that occurred.
As we close, here are the three key things I want you to take away from this talk:
- There’s no “abcd” of planning. Planning is a continuous process of experimenting, assessing and learning just like the management Plan, Do, Check and Act circle. You have to keep moving and growing otherwise you will be left behind.
- Instead of picturing/thinking about what the perfect job or career would be and working backwards from there, you need to start with a direction, based on a real desire, in which you think you want to grow and then work your way from there.
- The third and final thing you need to do is complement the first two with a strategy to discover and create opportunities consistent with your desire. In other words, you need to know yourself and to intentionally position yourself in the places that will create the most value for you.
Finally consider this: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. You can retire from a job, but don’t ever retire from making extremely meaningful contributions in life. Life is not accumulation; it is about contribution.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below…
Also see reference list below for further reading
- https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-make-a-life-plan-first-steps-3144639 —