Everybody knows how important it is to set clear goals in order to build a successful career.
Making a comprehensive plan to get you where you want to go in the future may seem overwhelming or even impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. You can efficiently create a strong career plan in a few simple steps, and make sure you stick to it with a handful of easy strategies.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed in life and many of these strategies involve some kind of leap of faith, but having a dedicated career plan is your best bet for realising your professional goals.
Why is Career Planning Important?
Formalised career planning allows you to make the best decisions for your future.
We all make career decisions on a regular basis — choosing wheter to stay in our current job or apply for a new one, whether to go for that promotion, or whether to sign up for further study. It can be hard to know what’s the right decision, and referring to your career plan can help you to gain clarity.
Career planning is not the same for everyone — people may have similar goals but everyone’s journey is different. Therefore, it is not wise to compare your career goals and how you aim to pursue them to others, but rather come up with your own, unique plan to accomplish your professional goals.
Constructing Your Career Plan
Career planning starts with recognising your own skills, abilities, and experiences — your unique selling points — as well as your hopes for the future. With this foundation, you can start exploring work and educational opportunities that align with what you want and what you are capable of.
Remember that career planning is not a one-and-done activity, but rather an ongoing process that you should continue to reevaluate as things change, and adjust your plan accordingly.
That being said, let’s look at the first step to efficiently constructing your career plan.
Step 1: Self-Assessment
The first stage of career planning is self-assessment. It’s important to be honest with yourself and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be too critical, but identify your most valuable assets, as well as what you lack and areas where you can improve.
Consider your employment, internship, and education history and how your work and study to date aligns with what you want to pursue. Think about the areas where you excel professionally and academically. You can do this exercise by yourself, but it can be useful to talk to a career advisor about your self-assessment.
Step 2: Consider Your Options
Create a list of career options that interest you, whether specific roles you’d like to do in the future, or fields you’d like to work in more generally. Research your dream roles and identify their prerequisites in terms of education and experience.
Build your network: join clubs and professional associations to discover career paths that may interest you, and learn about the kind of experience and qualifications these professionals have.
Step 3: Narrow Down
Next, you’ll need to narrow down your options. Do some research to learn about each career opportunity and decide whether this fits with your own interests and abilities. Narrow your list to your most preferred potential careers.
Create your LinkedIn profile and keep it up to date by adding your experiences. Leverage social media platforms and join groups that pertain to your career goals.
Step 4: Make a Plan!
After you have conducted an honest self-assessment and shortlisted potential career directions, the final step is to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Set career goals and work out the steps you need to take to make them a reality. Draft a realistic timeline of how long it will take you to achieve your career goals.
Make sure your goals meet the SMART criteria, meaning each goal is:
How to Stick to Your Career Plan
Write it Down
This may seem like a chore, but formalising your career plan by writing it down can make all the difference. Once you’ve recorded your plan, it will be easier for you to track your progress. Put a copy of your plan somewhere visible like your bedroom mirror or fridge door.
Set Realistic Deadlines
To help you stick to your plan, it’s important to set realistic timelines. Set a combination of short and long-term goals and over time track how many tasks you have accomplished and how close you are to achieving your goals.
It is not easy to stay dedicated to your career goals. This takes a great deal of hard work and motivation, in particular when you face inevitable failures along the way.
Make sure to celebrate milestones and achievements, no matter how small, and reward yourself — this will help you to stay motivated.
Accountability Is the Key
It’s hard to stick to your plan alone, so having encouragement from others is key. Find people who motivate you and give you the confidence to move forward with your plan, whether a job coach, a professional mentor, or even a friend.
Make Your Career Plan a Reality with Ongoing Education
Ongoing education is an important part of any career plan. Even experienced professionals need to keep learning throughout their careers in order to update their skills and keep up with the latest developments in their fields.
Whatever your career goals are, having the necessary skills and qualifications is essential and it’s likely that ongoing education will be key to making this happen.