Why a Step By Step Plan Isn't Enough For Your Career Goal

best practices career best practices career coach career coaching career goal career path plan step by step tech leaders Jan 06, 2021

Transcript for the video:

Hey everyone, Melissa here!  

Let's get started with today's tech leader power lunch. The topic today is why a step-by-step plan isn't enough for your career goal.

So, I'm excited to dive into this because I think most of us think that a plan will make whatever we want to happen, and it's not enough.


  • I'll give you a quick intro, if we haven't met yet.
  • We'll talk about kind of the typical approach that I see to people who want to tackle a career goal, whether it's a job search or promotion, or just gaining more credibility and influence internally, whatever it is, or even just trying to get more of a routine going with your networking. So you're not networking, when it's an emergency.
  • Whatever that goal is, we'll talk about the typical approach that I see and what's missing.
  • I'll give you a case study to give you some more kind of tangible ‘Miss around’ what's missing
  • How to implement the missing pieces.

So, with that, if we haven't met yet, I am Melisa Liberman. I am an executive career coach; I help my clients who are tech leaders achieve their big goals. For a lot of you those goals are job search, landing a new job, whether you have one right now or not. for others of you, it's getting promoted or setting yourself up for that upcoming promotion cycle. And then for other clients I have there in the job that they love and want to be more effective, as a leader, as a colleague as appear as someone who manages up. So those are the types of things that I help my clients with. And I work with people one on one. I love having this lunch as a way to get out the message to a broader audience and hopefully help you as much as I can in this forum.

So, with that, let's dive in and talk about the approach that I normally see when someone is ready to tackle a career goal. I'll focus mostly on job search type goals, because I know that's where a lot of you are working on. But this certainly applies to any kind of career goal that you've got. So, if you're not working on a job search, just think about how this applies to you as I go through the slides.

The Step-By-Step Plan Approach

The first thing I'd love to hear from you all in the chat is what goal are you specifically working on right now? With that in mind, the step by step plan approach is what most of us do.

We think about things very linearly. Think about the steps and the tasks and the dependencies and the time, elapsed time, all of that kind of thing, right? For most of us, we think when we have a brand new goal that we're working on whether it's find a new job or get promoted, we think about, okay, what are the X, Y, and Z tasks that I need to do, in order to accomplish this goal in the fastest amount of time, with the least amount of wasted effort, most of us are willing to put in the hard work, right? But we don't want to be putting in the wrong, wrong hard work. So, that's where our brains naturally resonate, or gravitate toward. 

We then, in order to make this step by step plan, we do things like googling and researching and going to webinars like this, right? By listening to podcasts, asking colleagues and friends and family members, if they if they're in the corporate world, and then trying to merge all of this together. And from there, we make our plan, right? What's our plan, the goal, the overall goal, to land a new job or get promoted, like I said, or to get recognized in some way, have more influence, have more authority, have your team operating at a higher level, whatever the ultimate goal is, we've got that kind of sentence in mind. 

And then we build out our project plan, what are my prerequisites? What are the tasks I need to do? What are the dependencies? What kind of help am I going to track against that and see if it's working or not working. Those are the kinds of steps that I see most people normally taking, and hopefully, this is resonates with you as well as something that you do when you're ready to embark upon a new goal.

The Problem with this Typical Step-by-Step Centric Approach

The problem though, with this step-by-step centric approach, is that it focuses on strategies and tactics. And it overlooks the mindset component. It's basically taking a corporate mindset to this and employee mindset and saying, “Okay, how someone gave me a goal, or I gave it to myself,” right? And objective, and then how am I going to break it down into all the pieces and parts to make it happen. That's how we as employees generally think about things. We, as employees, often overlook them and us humans really overlook the mindset component to it.

Overlooking the Mindset Component

Let's dive into what that actually means. I don't know about you, but I very rarely see a plan that includes things like uncover self-doubt or acknowledge the shame that I'm feeling over the fact that I haven't yet reached this goal, or I got laid off. And “I'm so embarrassed that my wife is or my husband is, is seeing me in this place, when I've never, you know, had a failure in the past, or feeling regretful I was talking to someone earlier today.” And they were ignored, you know, saying that they that they've got some regret over where their career has gone, they've made some choices in their personal life that make a lot of sense. But looking on the piece of paper, it feels like their career has stagnated or even taken a step back. And that regret is something that is kind of a thread through that becomes a thread through everything that you're doing, right.

I don't see on most people's plans, a line item that says improve myself confidence, right, these things are missing from our plans. Number one, we don't even really honestly want to even know they're there. Right? Most of us. And then number two, even if we do acknowledge that they're there, how do we even how do we? How do we address them? How do we, what do we even do to crew replace this self-doubt? Most of us don't know the answer to that. So just like put those aside and keep it moving. But what ends up happening is that we're powering through. And we're thinking that if all of those insecurities, the self-doubt, the shame, the lack of self-confidence, the embarrassment, the regret, we think that all of those things are going to be fixed once we achieve our goal. So, we're powering through and we're putting lips. It's like putting lipstick on a pig. Like, we're just like, Okay, “I'm going to sweep all this shit under the rug, I'm going to put my best foot forward, I'm going to pull up my bootstraps, and I'm going to, you know, make this happen, I'm going to get the next job.” And then we'll finally get that promotion, I'm going to finally get some respect internally. And then I'm going to feel better.

Case Study – The Tale of 2 Mindsets

But it's actually the opposite. That is the path toward the result that you want. So, let's talk about what that looks like. The way that I like to describe this to you is to give you a really clear picture about where the mindset makes the difference. It's like a 10% difference in your approach. The way that I want to do this is by describing to you two different clients, their names are made up because I'm not sharing any personal or identifying information. But both of them were seeking sales executive roles. And I choose this because it's the simplest to kind of say, Oh, these all things were equal, except for their two different people. So, they have a similar habit have and had a similar education as I was working with them came to the table of similar experience, like number of years of experience and types of companies they had worked with and types of thing of software they were selling, had a similar history of quota attainment. Their backgrounds were essentially as close as you could get when you're comparing to humans.

A simple a very mirror image of each other. So what was the difference? Why, in one case, did john take twice as long to find a role than Dan did? The difference was in as you can guess what I'm going to say? It's in their mindset, right. John is the one who has found the job successfully much faster than Dan. So, john comes to the table thinking things like they would be lucky to hire me. Like even though I don't have a job right now they would be lucky to hire me like I am a steel I'm a find I'm a I'm someone that can add so much value to another organization. And his feelings from that place our confidence self-assured, expertly. 

And as a result, what he was doing right out of the gate was networking into his role following up creating internal advocates, turning interviews into conversations versus just a question-and-answer session. Like really going all in from the place of these people would be lucky to hire me. Let me show up in a way that shows them how lucky they would be what he was not doing was wavering or hesitating or kind of that top track in his mind about well I don't know if this is the right answer or not maybe I should qualify this apologizing at times just having that kind of slight tentative edge to everything. Second guessing about whether he should apply or not he wasn't doing any of that right. None of this came into the equation not because of who he was or his backgrounds.

Both john and Dan were not employed at the time because they had been let go from their prior company. But he came at it with this mindset of the would be lucky to hire me versus Dan. There we go. Dan comes to the table with the thinking of like I hope this works out & is really bummed about what just happened with my last job let's just like try to get back in the saddle. From there, his feelings that he's generating and therefore, operating his job search from are things like tentative or nervous or anxious, hesitant. And as a result of that fuel, he comes to the comes to the process second guessing himself, changing his mind going into an application and getting halfway through and then deciding Well, I don't think I'm as qualified as I thought I was. I should probably abandon ship, go apply to something else, right. He's also obsessing over things Is this going to work? Why isn't this person calling me back? Why am I getting ghosted? Oh, this person says such and such to me, I wonder what that meant. He's also expecting his network to help him and get bail him out of the problem, hoping that it'll work. And hesitating as he goes through the process. What he's not doing are the things that work for john right? Networking, even though it's uncomfortable, he's not getting creative. It's not even applying as much as he could or going around the system, the way that he knows is effective. He's not pursuing those opportunities. And he's not answering as powerfully he as he can in the interviews. And honestly, the answers between john and Dan could be almost identical in content. But there's that missing piece of the hesitation. You can sense humans can sense right? When someone's hesitant or a little bit tentative, even if it's just this little sliver, we can sense that and other people. And no one wants to hire someone who's not confident who's not able to sell themselves, right. And that's what's happening here with Dan. And so, as a result, Dan had to get all of this cleaned up first, in order to get to the place where he felt truly authentically that they would be lucky to hire me and get his get the offer on the table.

And so that's why it's so important. If Dan had not done this work, he honestly would probably still be toiling in, in the pit of despair, right, not finding a role that what he was excited to accept, but she did after we work through this, right. So this is really important to look at that these two people could be having such a similar background as similar experience in their past similar quota attainment similar almost everything, even to the point of almost answering the questions in a similar way. But because of that energy, the tentativeness, the nervousness, the anxiousness, it doesn't come across as powerfully as it did for john, till Dan was able to move over here, right.

So hopefully, that gives you a really good picture of how the mindset impacts the way you're showing up in your job search. The way that you're showing up as you're pursuing a promotion, the way that you're showing up when you're trying to get more credibility and people to listen to you internally and take your recommendations. Having the mindset that goes around along with it, is what fuels your feeling. And then ultimately, the way that you show up. And quite frankly, let's just really kind of emphasize this here. Because john and Dan had such similar experiences, just want to point out to you, they got to choose what they were thinking about their situation, right. It wasn't that john had a job and thought, well, I'll just pursue this opportunity if something comes along, and they would be lucky to have me.

No, he didn't have a job, just like Dan didn't have a job. Both of them were unemployed, both of them were let go from their prior position. For a load, whatever the word, you know, whatever the word is, in their particular case, right. And they just looked at it so differently, and looked at themselves in the situation so differently, and that's what drove the results. It wasn't a fact that one was lucky to be hired. And the other one wasn't, it was the way they were perceiving the situation, and as a result showing up in that situation. So the same thing for you, regardless of what it is the goal that you're trying to accomplish. And regardless of what your background is, there are people out there with similar backgrounds to you, and are you going to be the john or the Dan. So in a very simplistic equation, hopefully that highlighted for you, that our mindset, which is simply our thoughts, our beliefs, which are thoughts, we think over and over again, that's the only difference between a thought and a belief, our thoughts about ourselves, our belief about ourselves, our belief about other people, our belief about the market, our belief about companies, what they're doing and not doing what they want, and they don't want that What creates our feelings? Which could be in the bucket of productive feelings, right? I'm confident. I'm self-assured, I'm expertly. I'm focused, versus Dan, right. I'm hesitant, I'm nervous, I'm anxious, I'm worried. Those feelings are what drives our actions. So, if we're coming at it from a place of confidence, or inevitability, our actions toward our career goals are very, very different. Just like John's were compared to Dan’s, when we're feeling hesitant or anxious, we end up second guessing ourselves not applying or not putting ourselves forward for the promotion. And it's literally this very simple equation. That's what's missing from most people's career plans, as they're going to tackle that next goal that they've got really looking at the mindset that's fueling it, versus just diving straight to the action.

How to use mindset??

So, to use the mindset to get what you want, and to incorporate that into your plan, is a very straightforward process. It's essentially how, what is the quality of my thinking? What feelings are predominant for me during the day? Is that worry, anxiety, anxiousness, hopefulness, hopefulness isn't usually not a productive feeling, or is it? determination, inevitability, expertly focus, that end up driving how you show up. So, incorporating this mindset work into your step-by-step plan, is what fuels that plan for you to accomplish your goals further, faster?

So, now, your next question. So, let's just assume that you agree with me that the mindset is an important component to your step-by-step plan. The next question you're probably asking me is how do I get this mindset into my plan? What does it look like?

It's so different than the task that we would normally be thinking about, like, Oh, I should update my resume. Or I should go talk to my boss about what my promotion path is like. Those are very tangible step by steps that come naturally to most of us. But the question is, how do I integrate mindset into my plan, if that's such an important component to it, and so on, there's a lot to this, right, this is what I do as a coach and helping my clients integrate this on a daily basis.

But for you, as you're wanting to start building this into your plan, I'll share with you the very first three basic steps.

  • The first is becoming aware and acknowledging that think feel do pattern that you've got going, like which of those two buckets are you living in? And most likely, it's some combination of them. Right? So how much time are you spending over in the john camp? versus how much time on a daily basis? Are you spending over in the Dan camp? It's a great question to ask yourself. So just being really aware of what you're thinking and how that's impacting how you're feeling, and ultimately, what you're doing or not doing in your day to day, progress toward the goal that you've set. One example is you might be thinking, well, this doesn't really matter at the end of the day, right? If you're trying to get promoted like this, this particular day, and this thing that I'm doing doesn't really matter to my promotion capability. So you shut yourself down and you just keep pushing that ball forward, right? I'll deal with that thing later, I'm working on this fire. Versus You know what, everything that I do matters. I wonder how I can leverage whatever it is that I'm working on right at this moment, to further progress my promotion goal or my goal of having more internal influence and credibility.
  • The second step, after you become aware is to really intentionally design what you want to think feel do instead, we get to decide on purpose, right? What perspective we want to bring to the table. And it requires some diligence and for thought of even just asking yourself the question like what do I want to feel today? Most of us have never even asked ourselves that question. We think we're kind of at the mercy of whatever happens, means, you know, is it going to be a good day or a bad day, right? And it doesn't have to be that way. You can have very, very direct control over how you're feeling based on deciding in advance what that is and what You need to think in order to feel that way, in order to get what you need to get done productively in order to think and feel what you need to get done. So, you don't talk yourself out of it. In order to think and feel in order, in a way that helps you from watering yourself down, or changing direction, like really very, very carefully putting that thought into that thing to feel do cycle and deciding in advance, versus just letting whatever happens create that for you.
  • The last step of the process is now that you know what you want to think feel do in order to fuel your plan, noticing that it's human nature to go back, revert back to step one, what we're used to doing, it's called a neural pathway. It's what we're used to thinking over and over and over again. And our brain is designed to do that to work very efficiently. So, it just doesn't naturally. The goal here is that just to acknowledge it like this is normal until I can replace this, this pattern or this habit. So, you're just constantly noticing, oh, I'm back into the back into the damn pattern. For example, I'm back into the pattern that isn't giving me what the fuel that I want, and just redirecting it back to where you want it to be. So that's how you can integrate this this important mindset element into your overall career goal plan to fuel it in a way that makes your success so much more inevitable.

Learn Where Independent Consultants (Like You) Find New Clients


  • The ebook will give you the inspiration you need to create an endless pipeline of clients.
  • Find a business development approach that resonates with you, so can actually enjoy your marketing and sales process
  • You'll be surprised at how easy some of the methods to find and land new clients can be.