Whether you are looking for your first job or thinking about a career change, it is important to make sure you have a plan. While you may want to just look for a job, taking jobs without planning can make it difficult to meet your goals. Creating a career plan can help keep you focused and help you maintain momentum towards your goals.
A career plan is a document you can use as a guide through the decisions you will need to make in your working life. It is not meant to be a rigid plan, but rather, one that adapt as you and your field change. You should not treat career plans as goals that have to be achieved on a certain timeline, but rather as a guide to help you decide what the next steps should be toward reaching your dream job.
After you have decided on a career that you think would suit you, you need to research and decide on what your ideal job in that career would be. After that, you need to research how paths to that job usually work. Look at the career paths of other professionals in your field. You may even want to talk to people who have your dream job and ask how they got there through informational interviews. Analyze how they started in your field and how they made each move up to the job they have. Try to decide what moves will be best for you and how you can learn from the paths of other professionals.
As you are researching, make a document to help you organize your goals. This can be a paper, a text document, a spreadsheet, or anything that helps you break down your goal into parts. You may list different jobs you want to hold, or big career moves you want to make.
Once you have listed different positions in your path, look at the steps you will need to take to get to each new position. Think about any certifications, degrees, or experience you will need to gain before taking that job. One way to tell the requirements for each position is to look for job postings for each job. List these on your plan as ways to achieve your goals. You may want to set flexible timelines for when you want to earn these extra qualifications and potentially outline how you plan to achieve them.
Think of your career plan as a changeable document, and don’t get stressed if the plan is altered. As the economy and world change, your industry and career path will change, too. You may have new opportunities or develop new interests that might alter the plan. The point of the exercise is to create a list of stepping-stones you can take to get to your end goal, and use it as a sort of guide for how you can move through your industry. This document will help you focus and time career moves, so that you can maximize your potential and maintain career momentum. It helps you focus on making a constant effort to reach your ideal job.
Here are some tips:
- Update the plan as your career changes. If you are promoted, change jobs, or decide on a new industry, alter the plan to fit your current vision.
- Don’t get caught up in timelines. While you may set time goals to help you stay focused, keep in mind that everyone’s career progresses at different paces. It is normal for yours to take longer, as long as you make progress.
- Always be open to new possibilities, since there may be more than one way to reach your end-goal.
- If you achieve your end-goal, reassess your plans. You may want to set a new goal and find new ways to achieve results.
- Try to be intentional about career changes, so that they always help you move towards your goal. Don’t take a job just because the pay is better if it is not going to help you get to your dream job.
- As you progress, it is normal to find more qualifications you didn’t know about before. You may even need to get another degree. Be open to any new ways to earn experience, and try to earn them before you need them.
- While you are in one position, work towards meeting the requirements for the next. You may be able to gain experience with projects or learn new skills in your spare time that will make getting your next position easier.
- Timelines can be helpful, but be realistic about goals. Don’t plan to get a job that requires 10 years of experience five years into your career.
- If you don’t meet your goals, reassess and see how you can adapt to meet them.
- Your plan is just one way you’ve identified to get to an end-point. Keep researching new ways to get there.
- As you work, be open to new fields and interests as positions become available. You may think you want to work in one industry, but find you have a passion for another. If that’s the case, remake your plan to fit your new interest.