How to Properly Plan Your Career – Part One
Properly planning a career is unquestionably one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It will affect just about every facet of your life. It determines how much money you’ll make, how much you’ll work each week, where you’ll live, when you can retire, and quite possibly, whether or not you pursue a family. On average, we’re at work over 70% of each year, which equates to nearly 35 years over an average lifetime. Making a good career choice either from the outset, or redirecting your career path, can be the difference between a life filled with satisfaction or a life filled with dissatisfaction and disappointment. While you don’t need to stress over choosing a career, it isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.
Some know from a young age what they wanted to be when they grow up, but in truth, they are the exception, not the rule. Most of us don’t know what we want to be when we grow up, even after we’ve grown up! It’s not uncommon for people to choose a career simply because they have to. They put very little effort into choosing a career path or they choose an occupation for the wrong reason. High pay, prestige, recommendation from a friend, and job security are just a few of the potentially wrong reasons people choose careers. Then they end up feeling stuck and unhappy. Proper and thorough career planning is the key to choosing an occupation that will lead to many years of fulfilment and satisfaction.
But where to start? On the one hand, plans and goals provide direction and motivation. Especially if you care about really making a difference, you don’t want to be just stabbing in the dark. Yet at the same time, the world around you is constantly changing, as are you – isn’t it naive to plan for the future when you have no real idea what the job market will look like, what the world’s biggest needs might be, and what you might want personally?
Well, the process can be divided into four parts.
Firstly, you need to Know Yourself: Ask yourself ‘Where am I now?’ and ‘Where do I want to get to?’, ‘How do I get there?’. Think about what you enjoy, your interests and skills, and what challenges you. Define your goals. Write them down.
Next, Explore Opportunities: Look into whether there is a market for your skills and interests. Are your plans realistic? Look at what training and qualifications you’ll need and where vacancies are advertised.
Then, Decide What to Do: This will involve planning how to reach your goal. This could entail gaining experience at a lower level or voluntary capacity first, in or order to build your career. Be realistic in your expectations, but don’t aim too low on your goals.
Finally, Take Action: get out there and gain some work experience, make networks, familiarise yourself with the general and graduate job market, research job opportunities, both online and traditional press.
The most important thing you can do, however, is to create your action plan. The action plan is designed to help you reach your goals. It’s like a road map that takes you from choosing a career to finding your first job, all the way to achieving your long-term career goals. In your action plan, you should identify your short-term and long- term goals, identify education and training requirements for your career, develop a job search strategy, identify potential employers, create a resume, compose cover letters, and prepare for job interviews.
Many people believe the career planning process is only for recent college grads who are trying to land their first job, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The career planning process is a useful tool you can apply throughout your career as you redefine yourself and your occupational interests, and as your goals evolve.
In our next blog article on this subject, we’ll look at planning your career if you are an older worker, branching in a new direction.