Plan Ahead!

Plan Ahead!

This is a riff about executives improving their strategic career and job search efforts based on a lecture I heard recently at Skidmore College that included a single slide about Gist Reasoning Strategies.

Although I found more than a dozen academic abstracts in 8-point type, I admit that I simply went back to the bullet points and wrote this up based on my very limited lecture notes and (mainly) personal experience.

Full disclosure: Gist reasoning is aimed at improving the cognitive capacity of seniors… but I found the approach valuable for senior executives wanting to improve their strategic career and job search direction. I hope you will agree.

Here are the four headlines I think due a nice job of framing successful career and job search.

Inhibit: Eliminate what’s inhibiting success.

This is a simple concept, although admittedly difficult to achieve. Step one is to eliminate the insignificant and inaccurate so what’s truly important becomes obvious.

Job Search:

A successful job search can only be accomplished by jettisoning the superman/woman positioning:

I can do virtually anything in my function for virtually any category, regardless of requested specific skills and experience.

This “can-do” attitude may be admirable on the surface, but it is deadly to job searches since it results in an unfocused and undifferentiated positioning and plan.


Get rid of weak direct reports, underperforming service providers, excuses, negative attitudes (including your own) and — especially — the unimportant, even if it’s seemingly urgent.

Organize: Utilize what you’ve determined is important to build your positioning and plan.

You can accomplish more by concentrating all of your efforts around a tight positioning based on your core strengths.

Job Search:

A focused positioning leads to an organized plan that targets those industries and companies that understand, appreciate and need what you can demonstrate you can accomplish.


Build your career around your positioning. After you have determined your core skills and interests and have already experienced some success, look for ways to organize your projects and future jobs around this core to build it further.

Inference: Why?

Everything seems to have an implication that leads to the next step. I have often used the simple question “why” when recapping what’s happened (or hasn’t happened). Look for how to fill in the gaps that will strengthen your positioning and allow you to answer questions.

Job Search:

Most job search efforts gain traction in certain “areas.” Once you’ve identified what’s working, ask yourself “why.” The answers to this simple question can help you focus and improve your efforts.


Same question: Ask yourself “why” certain results were achieved and you generated these results. Look for the full impacts of your actions, both real and perceived by those around you.

Generalize: Distill everything into its essence.

Take the many things you have done and simplify them into a single positioning statement that makes you especially useful. Then broaden it slightly to add dimension, personality and interest.

Job Search:

People want to hire those who stand for something that is understandable (simple) and useful (the person who can help me make money/increase sales/complete a project/make my life easier/keep my job…). They also want to hire someone with a story that they’ll like to work with.


Employees are retained and promoted for the same reasons. It’s important to be recognized as the person who can help your company, team and boss accomplish their goals (both emotional and numerical).

While Gist is aimed to improve cognitive reasoning for seniors, this aims to improve strategic career and job search reasoning by senior executives.

About Richard Sellers

Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.



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