Your Strategic Career Plan

11 Apr 2016
Author: Robert Precht


In previous posts I discussed the elements of finding a satisfying job in public interest law (or in any field for that matter) -- identifying your talents and identifying potential job settings. Today I will discuss putting that knowledge to work in a strategic career plan.

A strategic plan sounds forbidding but the concept is quite simple. A strategic plan is set of actions will take you closer to your goal. To create an effective strategic plan you need to have a concrete, measurable goal, and you need to set forth particular actions you will take in a certain timeframe. The goal and the actions must be measurable. In other words, they are physical happenings.


Now let’s apply these ideas. First, set your goal. Here are sample goals: To have a job as as an assistant public defender no later than 15 April 2017; to find a pro bono project with a children’s rights organization no later than 1 September 2016; to file articles of incorporation for my own charitable organization no later than 31 December 2016.

Notice anything in common? They are tangible. You will know one way or another whether you have accomplished these goals. You will have a job or you won’t. You will have filed the articles of incorporation or not. Fuzzy intentions such as “I will look for opportunities do public interest work” or “I will do more pro bono work” are not terribly helpful because they are not time-bound, and they are not measurable. How do you measure looking for opportunities or doing more of something?


Once you have set a measurable goal, the next task is to describe actions that will lead you to the goal. The actions also must be measurable. For example, ask yourself what you need to do in order to become an assistant public defender within a year. Several steps suggest themselves. Here are some examples: (1) attend portions of three criminal trials every month and introduce yourself to the lawyers and ask for meetings; (2) have one meeting per week with one of your LinkedIn connections and discuss your career goal; (3) join the local bar association’s criminal justice committee and attend meetings; (4) write a blog about some aspect of criminal law that interests you. One post a week will suffice; (5) contact the public defender’s office and volunteer to assist with any case it may be handling, even if it’s only proof-reading.

Get the picture? If you take the above steps you will be maximizing your chances of achieving the goal of becoming an assistant public defender within a year. The same principle applies to any career goal you might have. Make a timeline, and identify steps to be taken at periodic intervals, preferably weekly, that that will move you closer to the goal. And every week review your record. Are you taking the steps you said you would? Mark your progress.

Try this today. Set a goal for yourself that you can measure and that has a limited timeframe. Next, write down the various steps you can take that are also measurable that will take you closer to your goal. If you can do these two things you will have the core of a strategic career plan.

Next step is to implement the plan. I will have more to say about that later, including dealing with setbacks.