Don’t know where your career is going? You need a plan…
Although we often hope that things will automatically go the way we want, coincidences (and/or luck) isn’t always on our side – especially when it comes to career goals. That’s why it’s important to effectively plan for the future, whether you’re still studying or have been working for a while.
We’ve already covered everything you need to know about personal development planning, but here’s our comprehensive guide on how to make a career plan:
What is a career plan?
A career plan is a practical strategy that allows you to determine your skills and interests, set career goals, and put actions in place that will help you reach them.
It’s a continuous process, and it includes an overview of:
- Your current skills and experience
- Your career goals
- Your interests
- Your priorities
- Your intended actions
Why is career planning important?
Career planning is a great way to ensure your career is going in the right direction.
Not only does it help you realise your passion, it also facilitates your career goals with tangible actions and aims. At the very least, it’ll help you to answer career goal questions at your next interview.
By assessing your situation, you’ll additionally be able to determine and fill any gaps in your knowledge or experience that might be holding you back from your dream job.
Who should make a career plan?
Everyone can benefit from creating a career plan.
Whether you’re still studying, you’ve just graduated, you want to change careers, or you’re itching for a promotion – a career plan will ensure your actions are in line with your goals.
And it’s not just big changes that a career plan helps implement. You can also use it to learn new skills and widen your knowledge in a particular area.
How to make a career plan
- Assess your options. First things first, you need to figure out what career is right for you. Prioritise your choice based on your interests and strengths, and consider the importance of factors like salary, company culture, working hours, and commute time.
- List your current skills. Listing your current skills, abilities, and experience will not only help you to understand what career path suits you, it’ll also help you figure out if you’re qualified enough to take your preferred route. Areas where you lack in knowledge will inform the actions you plan to take in terms of training and development.
- Set goals and actions. Once you’ve decided on your ideal career path, it’s time to set some goals – which will help you decide what actions you need to take. These could both be short-term and long-term, and big or small.
- Give yourself timeframes. Setting deadlines for each of your goals will motivate you to get things done. Whether you work towards exact dates, or pick a broader timescale (e.g. a particular month) – adding this into your career plan will give your goals some realistic context, not to mention keep you motivated to keep going.
- Keep checking back. A career plan isn’t a one-stop-solution. To make sure your goals are up-to-date, it’s important to keep checking back on your career planner. Not only will it allow you to track your progress, it’ll also mean you can make alterations if your circumstances change.
How should I structure my career plan?
Career plans can be laid out in many ways, depending on how specific you want to be with your goals – and what you want to place precedence on achieving.
However, your career planner should always follow a clear and easy-to-read format.
To point you in the right direction, here’s our career plan example:
Include a brief outline of who you are and what you’re looking for. Include your strongest attributes and interests, as well as where you’re at in your current situation.
Provide an overview of your educational qualifications.
Write a short summary of your employment history.
Short term: E.g. secure job with progression opportunities (in 6 months).
Mid-term: E.g. get a promotion (in 2-5 years).
Long term: E.g. become head of department (in 5+ years).
Current skills, knowledge, and experience
Sum up your key skills and competencies – whether they’re gained from work, study, or hobbies.
Training and development requirements
Use this section to assess what training and development is needed to achieve your goals.
Give yourself a clear, step-by-step guide of the actions needed to reach your goals – including timescales against each action.
You can include as many actions as you want, but it might be most useful to limit yourself to a smaller number – so you can add new ones as you progress.
How do I stick to my career plan?
So you’ve created the perfect career plan, but now what?
Although forming a plan is the first step – it won’t work without continuous effort. That means using your career planner to inform your day-to-day, whilst making ongoing changes throughout.
This involves tracking your progress, ticking off finished goals, altering/adding steps, or even changing your direction after realising it wasn’t quite right for you.
Keep doing these things, and your career planner is far less likely to fall to the back of your mind. And, if you’re struggling to stay motivated, consider giving yourself rewards for each goal you meet.
But remember: your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Trying to get too many things done within a short space of time is only going to set you up to fail in the long run.