How to Properly Plan Your Career – Part Two
In our last blog, we looked at planning your career if you are just starting out as a graduate. In this instalment, we look at more mature workers who are looking for a change in career direction.
Managing your career at any age can be challenging and stressful. But when you’re in your 30s or 40s, the prospect of a new career can seem incredibly daunting, especially if you have significant family and financial obligations. Whatever your motivation – a better work/life balance, relocating interstate, or better future prospects – with careful planning and research anyone can prepare themselves for a successful change.
As per the guidance in our last blog, sit down and take stock of your skill sets. Look at where your skills and experience have brought you so far in your career, and the extent to which you have enjoyed using them in different settings. Starting with a blank sheet of paper, jot down all the things you think you are good at and when you were happiest. It’s also a very good idea to note down all the things you’re not so good at and haven’t enjoyed as well. You need to be scrupulously honest here, as a decision made for the wrong reason at this juncture could be disastrous. Also, don’t just stick to your professional life; skills and activities you enjoy in your leisure time can also shape your personal skills profile. Taken together this should provide you with a useful starting point in researching your preferred future options.
If you are changing your career because you hate what you do, but have no clear definition of what you want to do next, trying to picture yourself in your dream job can help refine your ideas and give focus to your job search. Note all the factors of the career that are attractive, for example; the location, the salary and other rewards, the promotion prospects or the size of the company. You can revisit this definition as many times as you wish to continually refine where you see yourself in future. You will ultimately get greater professional pleasure and rewards by working in your dream job.
Don’t get too carried away though. The more responsibilities you have, the more you have to be grounded in a realistic expectation of what you can do. Make sure you identify your minimum financial requirements to live life as you’d want to. Add up all your living expenses and other costs; your new career direction won’t last long if it doesn’t pay enough for you to live at the standard you need or might aspire to. Involve your family in your planning too, so that you understand their thoughts and concerns and accommodate their needs in your plan. Planning a career in later life should be about maximising your opportunities, not limiting your lifestyle.
Looking at your current role, note that beyond the industry-specific skills you’ve used, certain qualities are universal. These are your soft skills, and they are highly portable. What are soft skills? They are the personal qualities you need to succeed in the workplace. They encompass your communication, critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork skills, as well as your work ethic and positive attitude. Although not directly related to a position, transferable skills are incredibly valuable to employers. They show that you’d be a good fit for the team and demonstrate what you bring to a role. They also show how much you’ve learnt from previous positions or experiences.
No matter what job you’re applying for, you’ll need at least some soft skills. Employers want employees who effectively interact with others. These skills are also very hard to teach, so employers want to know that job candidates already have these skills.
Once you’ve made up your mind about transitioning into your new career, keep positive. Perseverance is essential, and your resume must show confidence. Employers hire self-assured people. Rather than considering the negatives of not having direct experience in the role you are targeting; use the process it offers as a learning experience and be thoughtful about what your core skills actually demonstrate.