6 habits of strategic thinkers

Kim Keon-hoon, a worker with Byucksan Engineering & Construction, looks out through the window from his empty two-bathroom, four-bedroom apartment before an interview with Reuters, in the middle class suburb in Goyang, north of Seoul April 1, 2013. Kim says he was forced to buy an unsold 800 million won ($716,400) apartment, built by his employer in 2008, as the company teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Five years after the global financial crisis, South Korean construction workers are feeling the pinch more than ever as they shoulder a mountain of debt from a real estate bust that has cast a long shadow on the country's growth prospects. Picture taken April 1, 2013.   REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: BUSINESS REAL ESTATE)

You cannot set goals in a vacuum. Image: REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Avery Blank
Contributor, Forbes
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To increase your chances of achieving your career goals, you need a plan. You must think strategically about what it is you want and what it is that is going to get you there. Leverage the opportunity to get closer to your dream. Here are six things strategic thinkers do to position themselves for success:

1. Identify what you want.

Think about what you want in your career. Allow your mind to wander, and open yourself up to possibilities. At this stage, think about possibility, not probability. Don’t hinder your thoughts.

2. Be aware of the world around you.

Think about what is going on around you. If you want to be able to achieve your goal, you cannot set goals in a vacuum. You must understand how context can impact that goal.

For example, you may want to work for an iconic brand that has been around for a long time. But if artificial intelligence is making the company’s product obsolete, you may be wasting your time.

Strategic thinkers identify a goal and understand the external environment in which the goal lies. Successful people make an effort to understand the world around them by speaking with people across fields, reading and staying current with the news. Use the world around you to guide you in your goal setting and identify the highest potential opportunities.

3. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand what they value.

Once you identify what you want and how that fits with current trends, go a little further. Put yourself in other people’s shoes to understand what they may be looking for. Understand what it is that other’s want. Become valuable.

One way to determine what people are looking for is to identify whether or not an area is crowded. Is what you want to do going to add unique value? Will you be seen as a commodity? Or are a lot of people doing what you want to do? Where is there an opportunity?

4. Take small steps towards your goal.

Once you know what you want, identify the steps that will lead you towards your goal. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Make daily, weekly and monthly sub-goals that continue to move you towards your big goal. Strategy is a combination of a long-term vision and short-term steps.

For example, you want to become a political writer for The New York Times. To help you succeed in reaching this goal, create a blog and start posting your writing. Build up some content to be able to then share with a small website that aligns with your focus. Continue to develop your writing portfolio there. Then take the writing you developed on that platform to pursue a bigger platform. Create the stones to step on and reach your ultimate goal.

5. Write down your goals, and get specific.

Seeing is believing. When you can see your goals, you can better grasp them.

Put metrics to your goals. If you want to showcase your social media skills, write down the number of impressions and profile visits you hope to reach weekly and monthly.

6. Hold yourself accountable.

If telling other people your goals will help with accountability, share your goals with others. But if you are not intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal, it will be difficult for you to reach your goal. Motivation has to come from within, not from an external source. You have to want it.

If you are not taking the steps toward your goal, reevaluate what it is that you want. You may have to refine your goal. Your goal may turn out to be something entirely different. Being strategic requires evaluation and reevaluation. Realizing what you don’t want to do is time well spent.

To be strategic, know what you want, and understand the context of your goal. Take small steps, and don’t be afraid to examine your goals along the way. Having a plan is your opportunity to advocate for yourself and achieve your career goals.

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