As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Planning is such an important step in achieving your career goals.

So how do you go about planning a big and bold goal?

After you’ve defined a big and bold goal and set a compelling vision, look at these, and consider what the steps could be. Planning is really about taking a goal and splitting it up into tiny steps…the tinier the better. When I was a project manager, we would often encounter huge multi-year project efforts that looked impossible. I sought some direction from my manager, a very wise woman. Her advice to me was to think about it as an analogy, “How do you cook a whale? One frying pan full at a time.”

Now, bypassing what PETA might say about that for a moment, I love this parallel because cooking a whale, like many large and complex efforts, can be daunting until you break down the steps and make them increasingly smaller.

What are the steps for the goal and vision you have set?

1. Start by brainstorming all of the steps to take. Just go wild on a whiteboard or use sticky notes to write down each one. Don’t limit yourself at this point…you’re brainstorming and every idea is a good one.

2. A step could be to meet with an advisor or someone who can help you to flesh out the other steps.

3. Think of every possible task…remember cooking that whale above. The smaller the steps, the better.

4. Come up with a Plan B (C, D, and E). What alternatives are there to the steps you’re brainstorming? Have some different possibilities prepared?

5. Now go back and break up the steps even further. Say you have a step, “Write my resume.” That’s too big for a step. It can be broken down further into:

a. Find a resume format I like
b. Gather all of my performance reviews
c. Review my current resume, look for accomplishments and not simply actions, and write these down
d. Update core competencies
e. Update skills
f. Update resume summary

The goal is to find items that you can do in one or two sittings. “Write my resume”
maybe too big as a single step.

6. Review the steps with a trusted advisor, coach, or friend.

7. Don’t worry yet how you’re going to get all of this done. We will address
that shortly. Just focus on the steps to take.

Now that you have the list, take a look at the logical connections between the steps. That’s why I like writing these down on sticky notes…you can put these on a wall and reorder the priority if needed. For example, if you’re looking for a new job as a goal, it wouldn’t make sense to start posting on job boards without a resume. You might want to work on Linked In before you reach out to your network, etc. Prioritize the steps into a logical order.

In project management, the critical path is those tasks that must get done in a particular order. The latter tasks depend on the previous ones. Let’s say you want to attend networking events after work. Is that essential to getting a job? Probably not. So this would not be on the critical path. Updating your resume is essential and so that would be a “must-do” on the critical path. Always good to know which tasks are on that critical path.


Can you devote some time to defining the steps to make your big bold goal happen? Think through all of the tasks, big and small, and determine who can assist you in this effort of bringing your career goals alive.



Up Coaching LLC.

Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a certified Career/Executive Coach. She coaches individuals and leaders to career fulfillment, transition, and advancement. She also consults for results with businesses and solopreneurs. Her background includes 12 years in senior leadership for a Fortune 100 corporation and 7 years as a coach, with a Master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness and Executive Coaching.


For more information, please visit my website at



Lupe Wood
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