In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard a trend from multiple recruiters and professionals concerning what they look for in a prospective employee. More than just having internships, demonstrating the right skill sets and showing a professional attitude, it’s important to remember the difference between strategy and tactics. In your own career, you can show employers that you are a strategist, which is more important than just contributing to the tactics.
So, what’s the difference between a career strategist and a career tactician? Here’s what a career tactician does in college and in their early career:
- Makes a list of internships to complete
- Plans their class schedule to fulfill all requirements
- Has a portfolio full showing different things they can do
- Goes on a study abroad to have international experience
Here’s what a career strategist would do in the same situations:
- Keeps internship and career options open, but keeps in mind how it will help future roles
- Takes classes that supplement their career interests, not just to get the credits done
- The portfolio shows they were part of a campaign and contributed to the success of it
- Studies abroad and is able to “unpack” and apply their international experiences
There are plenty more, but what it comes down to is being able to see the big picture of what you’re doing and why. If you are a strategist, you can answer why, when, what’s next, was it successful and what would you have done differently. It’s also important to remember that you can be a leader no matter what company or organization you are involved in.
I think it’s a good idea to take a top down approach to college vs. a bottom up approach. That is, keep in mind what you want to do upon graduation and then find the best things to fill in the gap of that goal and where you are now. If you want to go into PR, a good idea would be to have different internships that emphasize different things.
If you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate, you can still be a strategist. Your goal of what you want to do upon graduation will still require general skill sets that you can enhance with collegiate experiences. Personally, this is where I’m at. I know I want to do PR when I graduate, but where I want to work and with what kind of company… I’m not set in stone. I still know what I need to work on and improve, so I am still able to be strategic.
After you have created your top down plan, it’s a good idea to micromanage each step. When you earn those internships and leadership positions, don’t come in with a checklist of things you need to have. You should approach everything like a sponge – absorb as much information as possible and look at your projects from the big picture prospective. When you’re assigned to write a press release, you shouldn’t just do it. Ask why you’re writing the release and how it is important to the client. The Career Strategist blog has some great posts that talk more about preparing for a strategic career.
Seth Godin wrote a great post on the difference between strategy and tactics. He even says the right strategy can make any tactic work. So, when you’re planning your career, make sure that you know where you want to go and that you’re taking the right steps. Look at the big picture of what you want to accomplish in your early career that will propel you forward.
So, are you a strategist? Any tips or advice on how to become one?