Career planning. You hear a lot about this topic, but you might be in the same boat as a lot of other people and are not sure exactly what it means. So you think you know what you want to do with the rest of your life, but how do you do it? Knowing how to plan for your career, instead of just talking about it, is essential for productive growth. In this article, we will walk you through how to prepare for your dream career, and how to take the next steps.
What are your goals?
To begin career planning, you first need to determine where you want to go – and for how long. If you don’t understand what your real goals are, it is impossible to move forward. This part requires a bit of self-reflection. What is your dream job? What is reasonable? What do you need to achieve these goals?
Set your goals
There is a smart way to set goals for yourself, and it is just that – SMART. If you have not heard of the SMART goal setting technique, here is a quick breakdown:
S – Specific (the goal is not general but unique and defined).
M – Measurable (your goal is something you can track over some time).
A – Achievable (this is a goal that you can accomplish over a specific timeframe).
R – Realistic (your goal is something that is in your bandwidth, and within the realm of possibility).
T – Timely (smart goals happen in a specific amount of time, for instance, six months, one year, etc.)
Now that you know how to create a healthy goal let’s think of some ways that you can implement this system in your career plan. It is also important to remember that the more your goals align with the skills and experiences you already have, the higher your chance of success. For example:
Specific – I want to become a chef at a seafood restaurant in Boston, MA.
Measurable – To do this, I need my food preparation certifications and a degree in Culinary Arts.
Achievable – I have my GED, and I have worked in food service before, so I know that I can achieve this goal.
Realistic – This job is practical for me because I have some experience and know that there are plenty of job openings that match what I am looking for.
Timely – I would like to achieve this goal within one year.
Create an action plan
Think about what you need to accomplish your goal. Maybe it is a certification or a class that is a requirement for the job. Perhaps it is merely more experience in the industry. Knowing the barriers that are in the way of your goals is the first step to overcoming them.
When you have these challenges in front of you, try to divide them into smaller goals that will help you along the way. Take the opportunity to celebrate small victories, learn from small defeats, and update your career plan based on the experiences acquired along the way. For example:
I know that I still need a few certifications before I can apply to some of these jobs. I also need to find a new apartment in Boston, as commuting there from my current home might be too hard. In the meantime, I need a little bit more experience with increasingly challenging roles so that I can prove myself. Then I need to start applying to jobs and interviewing for them. It may take many different interviews before I get the job that I want.
Organization and accountability
Career planning takes perseverance, initiative, focus, and hard work. It is not ever an easy task to simply want something and make it happen. However, staying organized will help you along your way. Having your plan written down somewhere that you can truly visualize it might help you to stay the course. Think about creating a calendar for your smaller goals. Having a deadline to overcome each of the barriers in your way will motivate you to achieve them.
Accountability can be a tough thing to attain. Staying organized and having visual reminders may help, but another way you can hold yourself accountable is to tell your friends and family about your goal. By talking to others about your goal, you have shared the good news, and you will not want to disappoint them (or yourself!)
An important reminder: sometimes, our goals have a way of challenging us more than we anticipated. For instance, maybe you realize that the degree you need is going to take two years to complete when your goal was to get this dream job within 18 months. That’s okay! Stay flexible and adapt to things that are out of your control. Here’s one way:
I’ve created a journal with a timeline of each of the tasks I need to complete prior to applying to my dream job. At the beginning of each week, I make sure I know what I need to do to move forward in my career. At the end of the week, I check off the things I was able to complete and move things I wasn’t to the next week.
This week: I was able to enroll in a Culinary Arts program. It is going to take longer than I thought it would, but I’ve moved my timeline out to accommodate for this. My classes start next week!
Next week: I will need to find a part-time job to help me pay for my courses and keep me busy. I am going to find local restaurants that are hiring and apply to five jobs by the end of next week.
Executing the plan
You know what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them. Career planning is not a one-day process, and it is important to remember that things do not always go as planned. Use the resources at your disposal to help you along the way, such as LinkedIn, and other blogs on career advancement. Beginning your job search is not an easy task, but you’ve come so far already! The silver lining at the end of your career planning journey is that you will have achieved an amazing career.
If sometimes happens and you end up needing to change your plan, you will know exactly where to start. Are you looking for more tips on job searching and professional development? Follow us on social media to receive our content first hand!