Planning Your Career: How to Get Started

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If you are seriously interested in career development, you need to start planning your career properly. Identifying your goals and aspirations and mapping out a strategy that will bring you closer to them is essential to success.

Why planning is essential

Creating a plan from scratch can be overwhelming which is why many professionals never actually get round to strategizing correctly. But, the benefits of career planning are too important to ignore.

1. It makes it easier to succeed

Everyone dreams of success, but unless you have specific goals, there’s a good chance that you’ll never get anywhere. Planning your career means making calculated decisions and mapping out a strategy which will bring you closer to those goals, thereby increase the chances of success.

2. It enhances your performance

One of the most significant benefits of career planning is that it pushes you to become better at work. To thrive at work you need to be great at what you do, i.e. you need to be productive. To be able to produce results a professional needs to feel valued in the workplace, but s/he also needs to feel that their work is of value, which in turn ties to his/her targets. Working towards something specific will always help you be more productive.

3. It helps you develop personally

Separating your professional self from your personal life will often result in chaos. We spend a very large part of our lives at work, and it’s important to understand that the self at work and the self at home need to coexist peacefully. Setting up goals and pushing yourself towards achieving them won’t just help you become better at your job, it will also help you become a better individual.

The risks of planning ahead

1. You become fixated with yoru plan

Although it’s important to consult your career plan before making any important decision it doesn’t mean that you cannot change your plan. As we grow up our priorities change and whereas you might have once dreamt of becoming the CEO of an all-powerful corporation, you might now be more interested in work-life balance. All you need to do is adapt your career plan so that it reflects your current priorities.

2. You lose sight of your objective

Planning your career is crucial to achieving your goals, but what many people fail to understand is that planning ahead means you’ll often need to take side-steps to gain skills and resources that will allow you to achieve those goals and end up losing their focus.

Consider the following example: Tom is interested in starting his own non-profit to help third world countries, but to get connections and understand what he should be focusing on he needs to travel to third-world countries. The problem is that he does not have the resources to travel the world and his only option is to find work as he travels. A very popular work abroad option is teaching English, but to teach English, Tom needs to gain an ESL/EFL qualification. Tom could easily lose his perspective and end up pursuing a career in education rather than sticking to his non-profit plan.

To ensure that you are not losing sight of your objective you need to self-assess on a regular basis and re-determine your goals.

Building your career plan

Creating a plan means taking the time to research and understand what you need to do to fulfil your dreams and this is why it’s such an integral part of success.

1. Identify your goals

It’s not always easy to identify your professional aspirations, especially if you are at the beginning of your career. But, you can make this task easier by asking yourself a few questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What would make you proud of yourself?
  • What can’t you do?
  • What does success mean to you?

2. Research

Part of building your career plan is identifying the skills, qualifications, etc. that you need to climb the professional ladder. It’s important to take note of everything you’ll need to do.

3. Plan your steps

Mapping out your steps is the most crucial part of a career plan. It will allow you to identify what you should do next and also guide your future decisions.

4. Schedule self-assessment marks

Planning your career is not something you do once, it’s an ongoing process that requires regular self-assessment to ensure that you are making progress, as well as updating your goals.

Career planning strategies

Apart from formulating your plan, you also need to use a few career planning strategies that will allow you to ensure success.

1. Regular self-assessment

As we’ve already discussed, career planning is an ongoing process that requires regular self-assessment. By making sure that you are regularly checking your progress and updating your plan you are ensuring that you will not only remain focused on your goals but that you are also happy with where your career is heading.

2. Milestones

One of the most important career planning strategies you need to incorporate is to reward yourself. As career development requires strict self-discipline, it’s important to reward yourself whenever you achieve a goal, no matter how small or big your success is.

3. Setting manageable goals

Setting more manageable articles will help make your progress smoother, and it will help you avoid getting overwhelmed and giving up in the long run.

Useful tools and resources

Finding the right tools to plan your career effectively with is important as the easier to use, and more interactive your plan is the easier it will be for you to come back to it and consult it as time progresses.

1. Vision boards

Vision boards are a great career planning tool, as they enable professionals to visually depict their goals. They are usually made up of pictures and images which makes remembering your goals that much easier.

2. Ready-made action plan templates

If you are not quite sure how to start planning your future, there are many resources online that can help guide you in the right direction. Although some of the examples below are targeted towards graduates, that does not mean that you can’t develop your own career plan mid-career, just make some adjustments, and customise them to fit your own needs.

3. SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for ‘strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats’, and when used as a framework for planning your career, it allows you to take note of both internal and external factors, which can help you set more realistic goals.

4. Career coaching

Sometimes you need some assistance and experienced counselling, and this is exactly what career coaching is all about. Getting advice from an experienced professional will help you understand your true potential and make you feel more self-confident.

5. Career tests

If you are just getting started or are already employed but are not quite sure that you are in the right career, you might want to make the most of science. Career tests use scientific methods to measure your abilities and personality and match you to your true potential.

Planning your career can help you feel more focused and balanced, and this is why it’s essential for all professionals to create a plan before they start making professional decisions.

Do you have any questions about career planning? If you do, let me know in the comment section below!