Planning your career is an important exercise that every Massage Therapist should go through. Without a strategic plan, you end up going through your career without clear direction. With a plan, its like a map, you will know where you are going and the fastest way to get there.
Begin with the destination in mind
Just like a map, you need a destination first. Once you know where you are going you can plan how to get there. So when you imagine yourself at the peak of your career, what defines your success?
- Are you your own boss? Do others work for you?
- Where do you work? Are you in a clinic, a spa, a sports team or working from home?
- Who do you work with? Who are you surrounded by and supported by?
- What is your specialty? What modality or modalities have you mastered? Or what problem do clients seek you out to solve that others can't? Or who do you serve that have special needs that you are an expert at catering to?
Having the answers to where you are going means we can work backwards to where you are now. There are 3 areas that this exercise will focus on:
- Business Experience
- Technical Knowledge
- Self Development
By focusing on these 3 areas, you can plan your career moves, continuing education, and areas of expertise all while gaining the confidence needed to reach your peak.
If you plan on being in business for yourself, start our business plan NOW. Before knowing what you will need to do to get to your peak, you will need to know what it will take to get your business off the ground in its first 5 years. Knowing what resources and skills you will need to start your business will become part of your strategic plan.
Even if you are not planning on running your own business, there is still business knowledge and skills that every Massage Therapist should have. This includes client management and customer service, industry experience, basic business principals as well as the knowledge and skills you will need in order to make your next career move.
Every Massage Therapist should know how to market their own brand, how to manage their own finances and how to understand their own risks and liabilities. While working for someone else offers the convenience of having most of these things taken care of for you, its never a good idea to rely solely on others to build your career. By building your own career, you will be able to fill your own schedule, market yourself to clients who will follow you no matter where you go and travel in the direction that is best for your career.
Knowing what business skills you will need to do your job and navigate your career will allow you to either pick jobs that will offer you the opportunity to learn these skills through your experience or take courses that can teach you these skills. Chances are you will need both to get where you're going. Getting a mentor who is where you want to be can also be a way to learn more business knowledge while also avoiding the mistakes that others have made.
Knowing what your specialty is, will allow you to plan out what modalities and courses you will need to train in. Depending on what you imagined your peak to look like will determine how easy it is to see what your training should look like. If you imagined yourself mastering a modality and that is what clients seek you out for, then the path becomes simply training in that modality and any other modalities that can strengthen that mastery. If your peak involves an industry, population or condition then more research and planning will be needed to determine which modalities and courses are needed to obtain your peak. While learning new techniques is always exciting, keeping the basics, like ethics, charting, research as well as techniques, should be reviewed every 2 years and updated with a course every 5 years. One area of our industry that is often overlooked and underutilized is conferences and conventions. There are multiple conferences and conventions held every year specifically for Massage Therapists. These events are a chance to learn about new or better techniques, products knowledge and networking with other professionals. It also gives you a chance to meet with instructors before committing to a larger course. No matter what stage of career you are in, taking at least 1 to 2 courses every year will keep you sharp and moving forward.
No matter what your peak, working on yourself is important as well. Learning skills to become a better leader, better coach or mentor, and a better person all around will give you the confidence to execute your plan. This includes becoming a better member of your industry. Becoming involved with the governing bodies, associations and the organizations that help shape our industry help you see what others do behind the scenes to move our industry forward as a whole. It will also expose you to a whole network of people that you would normally not get introduced to. Self development comes in many forms: from learning how to be more productive, to improving your mindset to learning actual skills such as communications, there are many areas that should be worked on continually throughout your career. Self development does not always come from a conference, course or workshop (though I HIGHLY recommend these) but can also come from some amazing books. Self development should be something that is continually worked on and chosen wisely.
Now that you know where you are going and what steps it will take to get there, it's time to put the pieces all together. First, create a 5 year plan: this should include 3 to 5 business trainings, 5 to 10 technical courses and reviews, and 1 to 2 self development opportunities. Adding books to read or re-read as well can be included to keep you motivated and in your plan. While finances will affect this plan, not all learning opportunities cost money while some may even offer pay. When expenses get in the way of executing your plan, find an alternative that will fit in your budget. Next is to plan out the rest of your strategic plan. This does not need to be as in depth as your 5 year plan but should include what modalities you wish to master, any larger courses or conferences you wish to attend and any courses you will need to travel far to attend. It should also include your timeline for getting to your peak and your career path to get there.
Your plan should be reviewed every year so you can stay focused and book the courses you are planning on taking. It should be updated every 3 years and the exercise repeated every 5 years. As you move through your career, your peak may change. Let it change and move forward.
Many Massage Therapists have wondered through their career without a plan; taking courses simply because they were convenient or because they were the credits needed before the CEU cycle ended. This doesn't move you forward in your career or feed your passion for being a Massage Therapist. Planning gives you confidence, less stress and more enjoyment in the process. I hope your plan gives you a clear map to the best version of yourself.