Career Testing
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How to Build a Personal Career Plan

plan written on notepad beside a coffee cup

It’s never too early to start planning your career goals. You will always realise that there are certain things you wanted to do but could never find the time. Perhaps you wanted to take language classes in order to improve your communication skills, or you were planning to learn how to code to increase your employability and find a job.

Whatever the case, career planning will help you stay on track with your personal and professional development. Since career development is an on-going process, you have the power to refine your future plans to achieve your career objectives and goals!

Following this simple guide should help you plan your future career goals:

1. Self-Assessment

2. Explore and Pursue Opportunities 

3. Create a Strategy

4. Take Action and Follow-Through

5. Use Feedback to Improve

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these points and hopefully you will be ready to charge ahead and pursue your career aspirations.

1. Get to Know Yourself

The secret to becoming self-aware is assessing your strengths, weaknesses, interests and skills. Find out what it is you really want to try out and go for it. If there’s an area you would like to investigate in order to either increase your chances of finding work or improve your job performance you can start preparing by asking yourself three important questions:

Where am I now? – Your current employment status and working conditions.

Where do I want to be? – Your aspirations, goals or the new industry you’d like to enter.

How will I get there? – These are the steps you will take to reach your goals and career objectives.

Each question is going to help you identify which steps you need to take in order to achieve your goals. For example, “I am currently looking for a job and I would like to get a job in a big company as a Manager this year. To do that I will need to develop the skills that are required for this position.” Also, make sure that when you are asking yourself these questions you are being as specific as possible and that you are setting weekly or monthly targets to keep yourself motivated.

All of these considerations hold true if you are considering a career change or shift. If you intend to enter a new and unfamiliar industry, then you must either do a lot of research or acquire your knowledge in a different way, through seminars, courses or industry certification programs.

2. Explore and Pursue Opportunities

Now that you have an idea of where you want to be in the future, it is time to explore available opportunities that relate to your chosen occupational preferences. This will help you research what you need in terms of skills and qualifications for the new field you are interested in. At this point, you might want to consider the possibility of commuting or relocating. For example, if you are willing to travel to another country to get a degree or an additional qualification, you need to contemplate which option would be the best for you. Depending on your available resources e.g. finances, you have to be able to identify which career decision will be more realistic and feasible.

So, search for opportunities that exist around the area you currently live in or even abroad and plan how you are going to make it happen, taking into account your daily schedule and responsibilities, e.g. taking care of children or other work commitments – in case you are working and studying. Luckily for people that have limited time, there are multiple ways to bolster your knowledge including free online classes and “academies”.

3. Develop a Strategy

It might seem superfluous, but having a strategy will help to reveal the steps you need to take to achieve your career goals. Because achieving these milestones are multifaceted and complex, involving networking, social skills and of course ambition. You might need to further your knowledge by taking other courses and increase your qualifications by getting new certifications in the field you’d like to enter. Your strategy can also involve putting yourself in places that will allow you to meet people in the industry or company you would like to enter. This means attending conferences, trade shows and events.

Your strategy can involve things beyond personal development and networking, though. You can target specific individuals significant within the organisation you want to work for. By attending speaking or industry events and making yourself more visible, you might be able to penetrate the market easier or at least the network of people that will help you do so.

4. Take Action and Follow-Through

After you have researched available opportunities and have made up your mind, all that’s left is to put your plan into action. Think about how you are going to move forward and try to get any support available that will help you move towards unfolding your career plan. For example, what do you need to do to get the training your job offers? Is there someone you could talk to? What are the final steps that will help you develop your plan? All of these questions you need to be constantly asking yourself in order to ensure you are on the right track for your career.

Action is an important part of the process, without appropriate follow-through your efforts will inevitably and sadly go unrewarded. Furthermore, do not allow obstacles or even outright rejections deflect you from your goals, there are multiple roads that lead to any single destination.

5. Use Feedback For Self Improvement

The great benefit of developing a career plan and executing it is that you have the opportunity to receive feedback. Even if your job interviews prove unsuccessful, you can always ask for feedback. But, this can be a delicate process because you have to know when and how to ask for feedback.

One difficult situation can be if you were rejected outright. You might just move on to the next interview, although even here asking won’t hurt your chances; you just might not get an answer. If on the other hand, you progressed through past the first and perhaps even to the last stages of an interview process, then the hiring manager will be much more eager to offer you feedback, due to the relationship you have established with both the company and the hiring manager.

Feedback from companies that you have progressed further through the interview process with is not just more readily available it’s also more valuable because micro-adjustments are much more effective than complete pivots in your plan. Remember that when requesting feedback - the companies are not obligated to - be polite and if they decline move on.


As you can see, it isn’t as difficult to build a career plan as you might have thought! If you are self-aware and have a clear indication of where you want to be you can easily make it work! Did you previously try to achieve your career goals and fail? After reading this article what would you do differently? Let us know in the comment section below.

This article was originally published in December 2014.

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