Whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, having a career plan is beneficial for career growth no matter which stage you are in. You may ask “why do I need a plan for my career?” Well, if you don’t focus on having a plan for your life and career, the truth is, someone else will. Others will happily push you to follow their plans for your life if you don’t have any for yourself.
Additionally, planning for your career can help you stay focused not only when it comes to progressing in your career but also when it comes to reaching certain career and life goals.
Generally, having a five-year career plan is advisable as it gives you a more realistic outlook on the future. For example, think about where you see yourself in your career in the next five years, and then break that down into mini career plans for each of those years.
Here’s how to put your career plan together:
Step 1: Evaluate Yourself
The first step to creating a successful career plan is to think about what you’re passionate about. What do you see yourself doing happily for the rest of your life? What are some of the things you can do for hours or even without getting paid for? It doesn’t have to be something you are extremely great at, you just need to have a genuine interest and curiosity for it.
Step 2: Assess Your Skills
Once you’ve identified that which you’re passionate about or have a great interest in, it is time to look at your skills. How good are you at doing that particular thing? What are some of the key skills you need? Do you need to improve your skills in that area? Do you need training or mentoring?
During this stage, you’ll need to be honest with yourself and identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can work towards improving yourself in those areas. Write down the skills or qualifications you need so that throughout your career journey you can make it a mission to obtain them.
Step 3: Identify Careers That Match Those Skills
Like everything else in life, reaching your career goal is a journey, it takes time. You may not immediately be in a position to do that which you’re passionate about full-time or at all. However, there are certain jobs or careers that are similar to what you see yourself doing or that can help you obtain the skills you need.
During this stage, it’s extremely important to trust the process and embrace the journey. You may see yourself as a CEO but start out in customer service. The reality is that being in customer service you actually develop the skills to be patient, listen to people, manage people’s expectations and so on.
Essentially, your current job or career may not look like where you see yourself in the next five years, however, each job has valuable lessons it teaches you. You just need to be open to identifying it.
Step 4: Set Your SMART Goals
Every career plan needs a set of goals and the best way to do this is to set SMART goals. SMART simply stands for:
- Specific: being detailed and specific about the goal you want to reach.
- Measurable: choosing a goal you can actually quantify. It’s important to be able to measure or identify when you’ve achieved your goal.
- Attainable: setting realistic goals. So goals you can actually attain.
- Relevant: having a goal that is relevant to what you want to achieve.
- Time-based: setting a specific time frame for when that goal needs to be achieved.
Once you’ve set your SMART goals, it’s important you go back frequently to track your progress.
Step 5: Seek Guidance From A Mentor or Career Coach
One of the best ways to learn is to learn from others who have been there before you. As part of your career plan, don’t be afraid to reach out to people who are doing the job that you see yourself doing. Social Media has made it easy for us to build relationships and connect with others in and outside of our own network. Don’t be afraid to ask if someone whom you admire is willing to mentor you… or the least you could do is follow their journey online.
Also, if you notice that you do have certain shortcomings such as struggling with low self-esteem and imposter syndrome, reach out to a certified career coach who can help you overcome those issues.