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My favourite word these days has to be ‘ecosystem’. The reason is that everything related to our careers (and indeed, life) exists in an ecosystem that either supports or suffocates our ideas and plans. So, assuming you have ambitions to advance your career, how do you ensure you have the right ecosystem to take that forward?

Here are a few of the many things you need to take care of:

1.  Goals. Do you have a goal? How clear is it? Is it written down – with timelines and action steps? Have you figured out what resources you need? Who can help you in your plan? The starting point for career progression must be a well-defined plan. If possible, put down reasons for your desire to attain this goal. This will give your plan the energy it needs to reach fruition.

2. Reading. Are you reading the right stuff? You need to stay abreast of the latest developments in your discipline, your company and its industry, and current affairs – local and international.One must also enrich the mind with books on history, classic literature and spirituality. Reading helps expand your mind and vision, and also makes you an interesting conversationalist.

3. Building networks. Are you meeting the right people? Do you attend industry conferences and seminars? Are you a member of professional bodies? Who you know and who knows you are two critical thrust-builders for career progression.

4. Balanced scorecard. What are the elements in your life that you are focusing on at the expense of others? If, for example, you are spending all your time working your way to the top and taking care of your finances, what are you doing about relationships with family and friends? What about your health and spiritual development? Work-life balance can be elusive depending on your current situation but do not abandon the things that sustain and nourish your life.

Career progression must be the result of planned and deliberate actions on your part. Luck and circumstance will certainly help after you have put in the required work.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor of practice, executive coach and writer.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 18, 2013.