Despite its level of importance in our lives, most people spend more time planning what they are going to do at the weekend than they do planning their career.
Managing your career effectively involves identifying a desired career path. Knowing where you want to go and what you need to do to get there is crucial in order to manage the process and make the right decisions along the way.
Career planning is not just something to think about when you are moving jobs; even if you are not considering a move for a number of years, proper career management can have just as much impact on your progression within your existing company, as with a new employer.
When planning your career it is important to recognise the need for flexibility. You may not know exactly where you want to go, but you will almost certainly know where you don’t want to end up. A good plan will leave several options open, but eliminate the possibility of you ending up in the wrong place and may be adapted or altered over time to suit your changing career needs.
When planning your career you can follow these steps:
- Your Options
- Making a decision
To start with you need to gather information about yourself and look at what you have already achieved in your career. Begin by thinking about your interests, hobbies and anything that you enjoy doing. By doing this you can see what type of career would incorporate the things you like and would make you happy in your work life. You need to also think about things you have already achieved, these have got you to where you are today. Recalling these past successes will not only give you a boost but can provide you with a great idea of the types of jobs that suit your skill set.
Next you need to decide where you want to get to in your career. For this you will need to start thinking about what options are available to you. What jobs suit your needs? Do you need to move or can you progress where you are? Which sectors could benefit from your skill set? Start talking to people in different sectors to get a real idea of where you can use the skills you have that an employer can utilise and will pay accordingly for.
Making a Decision
You have realised what types of jobs you would like to do; the next step is to look at what is really available. This is really good for seeing what roles are out there, which skills employers need and whether the role you are looking for is out there. By matching your skills to what an employer needs this gives you a great chance of success from application through to an offer. If your perfect role isn’t out there think about how you can reach the level you want. Could you choose a role that gives you a chance to progress? This would give you the opportunity to hone your skills, meet those in the industry and with a chance of promotion to reach your perfect career.
This is the bit most people find difficult, taking action! So you’ve found the role you want but not sure if you are ready to make that step. There are ways that you can try the job before committing to something more long-term. Why not volunteer, or get involved with some work experience. Another great way to do this is by contracting, this will give you a chance to test your CV out on potential employers, go through the interview process and meet people in the industry and gain useful references.
Once you have a plan, you need to review it regularly. These days job markets change so fast, you need to manage your career on an on-going basis. A very good practice to follow is to undertake an annual career review, along with a briefer six monthly reassessment of your strategy.
You can conduct the review yourself, or with a recruitment consultant you trust, and the six monthly checks could simply be a conversation either with a mentor or again, a good consultant: it’s up to you, but you need to work out how you are going to monitor your career.
As we have already said, reviewing your career is not about moving; it’s about putting yourself in the best position to make the right career decisions. So even if you are very happy where you are, it’s worthwhile doing it.