Many of the principles that are inherent in good project management can, and should, be applied to your career. Producing a framework of where you are, where you want to be, and how you will get there can be an incredibly useful career planning exercise. Here's how to get started.
The first phase of your project is to plan. This involves producing a detailed project plan (read: career plan) for the next 10-20 years. Start from the end: where do you want to be in 20 years? Be specific. Define where you see yourself working, what you're doing on a day to day basis, who you're working with and what line of business you're in. Then work backwards from there. So in 10 years, assuming you need to be half-way to your goal, what is the logical half-way mark? What about 5 years? As you start to narrow the time period you should be building a virtual road map for your career. Define what milestones you need to hit to achieve this plan - that's good project planning.
The define phase is where you begin to outline the practical steps that you can take to achieve your milestones. You should be outlining things like:
You should also define a set time-limit to achieve each milestone so that you know when you're deviating from your plan, and can adjust it accordingly.
Now is the time to put your plan into action. Go out and set up meetings, register for courses, apply for your entry level job into the chosen career path and attend networking events. Display your willingness and openness to learn at work and constantly push for promotion and new opportunities. Work outside of your comfort zone and set stretch targets for yourself. Monitor your progress against plan with regular check-ins, and be sure to adjust your strategy if it's not working. Good implementation is all about executing your strategy in a controlled and focused manner.
Achieving your milestones is a powerful thing and can give you the impetus to continue on with your plan. When you achieve your targets you should reward yourself mentally and re-visit your plan for the next period.
Review your progress by asking these key questions and document your learnings. Good project management methodology is about repeating this tried and tested cycle and ensuring that learn from your mistakes. Success in project management is always a combination of great planning and ruthless execution - it should be no different for your career.