Career planning isn’t something that should be done only in school or college. Even while you are in your job, the planning process should continue. Regular planning could prepare you to transition to a new career or help you define new career goals. The average employee switches careers (not jobs) several times over his/her lifetime, so it’s never too late or too soon to start career planning.
Developing an effective plan that works for you can be time-consuming, and it requires strategic consideration. To create a long-term successful career, knowing how to put your resources and money to best use is crucial, however knowing how to invest your time is essential. Here are a few productive ways to spend your time when creating your career plan.
In career planning, it is helpful to know which skills/expertise will help you perform better in your job, as well as what you will need to climb the career ladder. When seeking out such details, information overload can be a big problem since you have to identify what is nice to know as well as what you really need to know.
To minimize mental overload, find the most reliable sources of information that will help you pursue your career goals. This may include professional publications or trade journals specific to your domain and experience. Subject matter experts and thought leaders whom you respect and trust etc. You can use online tools to sieve through the sea of information available to find and curate the most relevant content applicable to your career development.
Evaluate the experience you have gained throughout your career and identify what type of experience you will require in the future. This could include honing your problem-solving skills, or upgrading skills that will soon become redundant. You could even pursue opportunities that encourage your professional growth. In fact, the experience is about testing and experimenting with your ideas, implementing them and aligning what you learn with your desired goals and outcomes.
Change should be embraced. Once they have tasted success early on in their careers, many managers expect that success to carry them through till retirement, which can cause career stagnation. To maximize your personal and career growth, be ready to adapt and change all through your career. Be open to learning new skills and gaining new experiences as this will prepare you for the next big opportunity that comes knocking at your door.
Set Your Career Goals
Setting career goals is a great way to monitor professional progress. Setting and achieving these goals develops you and increases your chances of having a successful career. Having a clear plan is much more effective than operating without a career roadmap. When planning, break things down into manageable chunks. Set short-term (one year), medium (2-3 years) and long-term (3+ years) goals. After starting the goal setting process, make sure to review and adjust the goals to match your career changes or progress along the way. If necessary, develop new goals once you achieved all you set out to accomplish.
10 Year Vision
Although it may seem like a long time, especially if you don’t know what you want to do next year, developing your long-term (10 years) vision can be useful. This plan will guide your short-term decisions and actions. Working backward, you can create 5 years, 3 year and 1-year plans. Having a long-term perspective will help guide your decisions. When trying to determine your actions, ask yourself, “What would be important for me to do today that would help me achieve my 1 year, 3 year or 10-year vision and objectives?”
Carefully consider where you want to be in your career and life in the next 10 years. What kind of work do you see yourself doing? How do you want to be spending your time and how clear is this vision? With a clear, long-term vision, you will be able to make day-to-day decisions directed at meeting your short-term goals, all of which would contribute to your 10-year objective.
For career advancement, effective communication skills (speaking, writing, and presenting) are crucial ingredients. If you want to earn a fat pay packet or take on additional responsibilities, it’s important to invest in improving and honing your communication skills. Remember that effective presentations (which are common in both large and small establishments) together with strong speaking and writing skills can create a huge advantage in your career. To improve your communication skills, you can take public speaking courses, presentation skills training (with audio-visual aids), business writing courses, sales training (especially important if you are entrusted with consulting tasks that demand revenue generation) programs as well as effective voicemail and conference call training.
Don’t categorize yourself with respect to your job titles. Rather, consider the specific skill sets that your job requires and find how you can apply them to a wide variety of jobs in different careers. For example, a reporter usually has a host of transferable skills such as researching, writing, interviewing, investigating, editing, meeting deadlines and goals, multitasking, managing time and information etc. Such skills could be easily applied to a lot of other jobs in different domains.
Professional Connectivity Skills
Professionally networking with people who are one or two steps ahead of you in their career is smart. This can open up quality job leads, provide valuable advice, and even help you secure a few mentors. These actions will help you advance your career just the way you would have envisioned. Where do you start? Try networking with members of relevant professional associations and online communities as it will help you to know and be known by connected and knowledgeable people in your field. By creating and nurturing an ever-expanding professional network, you can find the right advice and opportunities to grow professionally through your entire career.
New Education Opportunities
Knowing how to acquire and use educational information paves the way to achieve career success. It is therefore important to be ready to grab chances to learn and grow as an employee and an individual. Career planning should go beyond being passive and accepting training opportunities. You should be proactive in searching within your professional association, your company, your local community colleges, and universities. Explore online distance learning programs that will help improve or further your career. Once you have found the relevant programs which will give you educational experiences that are aligned with your career goals, find ways to achieve them.
Most people lose momentum when trying to take their careers to the next level. This is often due to time management challenges, multiple responsibilities or not knowing which step to take next. Ideally, your career management should be a process that becomes integrated among your daily activities and objectives. Investing in a career coach can be an effective way to boost your commitment levels, help you create an action plan, make yourself accountable and get the support you need. In today’s competitive market, investing in a career coach who helps you see the right perspective and tools to keep you focused and on track can help in advancing your career.
Invest in work/life balance as that’s the key to success in both your personal and professional life. Investing in quality time with your family and friends will enrich your points of view, help clear your mind, and broaden your perspective by letting you see a subject through a different lens. Getting engaged in activities different from those related to your career is important. Doing this will create new exposure to and appreciation for new ideas that can mold your thinking and encourage your professional growth. Investing in your personal relationships is an enrichment process that focuses on making you a better person both within and outside your workplace.
Career planning time management is a multifaceted process. As we covered, it includes researching and taking suitable certifications to enhance your education and experience. This will help you get a salary raise or move onto a better job with added responsibilities. Having your long-term goals and assessing how your daily activities and short-term goals align with your long-term objectives is also important. To create the type of lifestyle you want later, it is essential to begin planning today.
So, set clear milestones, know where you are heading and stay focused to create a successful career that will fulfill your purpose and bring you joy.
About the Author:
A.P. Samuel is the co-founder of SkillsBuild Training. He has a passion for helping people develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s IT job market. A.P. has spent over 20 years in the IT industry. He has worked as an IT Trainer and IT Consultant in Europe, North America, and The Caribbean. He has earned IT Certifications from Microsoft, CompTIA, Citrix, and Symantec.
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