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How to Make a Career Plan Using an 8-Step System

Apr 20, 2021 | Features | 0 comments

A successful career doesn’t happen overnight. It usually requires a lot of hard work and dedication. So, don’t leave it up to chance! Make sure you equip yourself with a career plan.

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Everything You Need to Know About Career Plans

What Is a Career Plan?

It’s a specific plan that outlines your strengths, interests, and goals relating to your career. It’s a great professional tool that allows you to determine the best strategy to meet your short- and long-term career goals.  

A career plan isn’t stagnant. It will naturally evolve as you learn about yourself. Think of a career plan as a guide that you will keep referring back to as you progress in your career.

Why Have a Career Plan?

A career plan is a useful decision-making tool. Choosing between multiple career or internship opportunities can be overwhelming because there are so many factors to consider. A career plan breaks all of those factors down for you. 

It’s also really handy to have when you’re applying for a job. Most people run out of things to say in their application cover letters. If you have a career plan ready, it’ll be easier to articulate why you’re a good fit for certain occupations.

You can also bring your career plan when you’re interviewing for a position. It shows your potential employers that you’re serious about your professional growth.

When Do You Need a Career Plan?

The earlier you have a career plan, the better. But it’s also NEVER too late.

Most people start thinking about their career path in high school, but so much can change in those early years. There are certain junctures when a career plan is especially useful. Here are a few examples:

    • While you’re in school/training. You may not be in the job market yet, but you can already start developing skills that’ll be useful later on. Don’t wait until you’re in your senior year of high school or college before you start thinking about the future. School is a great venue to explore and narrow down your career interests.
    • At the start of your career. Try to have a career plan before you land your first job. That way, you’ll avoid choosing a job that won’t contribute to your long-term goals.
    • When you want a change. If your current career path isn’t working out for you and you want to explore your other options.
    • When all you have is a goal. Some people know what they want, but they don’t know how to get there.

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, then perhaps it’s time to make a career plan. 

Who Should Make Your Career Plan?

Don’t outsource your career plan! You are the foremost expert on yourself, so you should be the primary author of your plan.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t have advisors. On the contrary, developing an effective career plan often involves consulting mentors and other professionals.

How Do You Develop a Career Plan?

Now that you know what a career plan is and why it’s important to have one, here’s an 8-Step System that’ll help you whip one up!

career plan

Step 1: Clarify Your Values

The first few steps of creating your career plan involve a lot of self-reflection and self-assessment. The first thing you need to figure out is your non-negotiables.

Are there any personal values that you aren’t willing to compromise? Or are there non-career life goals that are important to you? What are your intrinsic motivations for working?

Answering these questions alone can help you clarify the vision you have for your career. For example, some people put a premium on work-life balance. Unfortunately, certain fields make it extra challenging to achieve this.

Step 2: List Down Your Skills and Experience

Once you know your non-negotiables, it’s time to figure out what you have working for you. You can break down your skills into two categories:

    • Soft skills – these refer to skills that aren’t technical but allow you to be more productive and effective. Good communication skills, flexibility, and problem-solving skills are examples of desirable soft skills.
    • Hard skills – these refer to skills that are measurable and teachable. They often require some form of training. Examples of hard skills include computer programming, graphic design, and data analysis skills.

Apart from your skills, it’s also important to list down your experience. You may want to start by listing down the different industries you’ve worked in before you list down your previous roles/positions. 

Step 3: Identify Your Interests

There’s some truth to the popular career quote, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” If you want a sustainable career, it has to match both your skills and interest.

Just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean you’ll find it satisfying and fulfilling. So take some time to list down your personal preferences.

Ask yourself: what activities make you come alive? What tasks do you find highly engaging and enjoyable? This will help you narrow down the career fields.

career plan

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Step 4: Gather Information on Field of Interest

A good chunk of career exploration involves knowing yourself. Once you have that sorted out though, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do research.

Take some time and do real research about your fields of interest. Try not to rely on superficial or stereotypical information.

It’s better to get first-hand, real-life information. If you know someone who has some work experience in that field, talk to them.  

This is also where a career counselor or career advisor might be helpful. They can give you a clear and realistic picture of the current situation.

For instance, some careers are more in-demand than others. So even if you could potentially do well in a certain field, the actual job search may be more challenging.

 

Step 5: Consider Other Important Factors

You can have all the time in the world, but if your energy levels are low, you probably won’t get a lot done. That’s why it’s so important to prioritize your physical health and manage your energy stores. 

    • Does the salary grade matter to you?
    • Will it require you to move?
    • Do you want flexible hours?
    • How will a particular career impact important relationships in your life?

These may not matter as much early on in your career, but it’s important to have a long-term outlook. Remember, you can’t take back the time you invest in your career.

Step 6: Make a Choice

Now that you’ve laid down all of the personal, technical, and real-world factors, you can start narrowing down your career options. With everything you’ve learned, try to answer the following questions: 

    • Does the salary grade matter to you?
    • Will it require you to move?
    • Do you want flexible hours?
    • How will a particular career impact important relationships in your life?

If you’re in the early stages of your career, it isn’t uncommon to have multiple options. You still have a lot of wiggle room to learn more soft and hard skills. Remember though, when it comes to settling on a particular career path, there is no right or wrong answer.

career plan

Step 7: Set Goals and a Timeframe

Once you’ve identified your dream job, you make a career action plan and map out your course. Your career plan should have clearly stated long-term goals. Long-term goals refer to goals that will take you 10-15 years to achieve.

They can be further broken down into mid-term and short-term goals. Short-term goals that you can achieve within a year. Mid-term goals are goals that you can achieve in 2-5 years.

Make sure you come up with SMART goals. SMART goals are goals that are:

    • Specific – your goals need to be clear. For example, “get a promotion,” is more specific than “be successful.”
    • Measurable – your goals need to include well-defined milestones. That way, you can easily tell if you’re heading in the right direction.
    • Attainable – Your goals need to be realistic. Otherwise, you might get frustrated and burned out.
    • Relevant – Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re progressing in your career. Make sure your goals contribute to your long-term goals. 
    • Time-bound – Having a realistic timeframe can help keep you motivated. It also gives you a sense of urgency you wouldn’t have if things were more open-ended.

Once you have your goals, you can come up with clear action plans to meet these goals. 

Step 8: Write Everything Down

Make sure you write down your career plan so you don’t forget! Here’s a simple outline you can follow:

    • Overview of your values and interest
    • Summary of soft and hard skills (including certifications and education)
    • Summary of work experience
    • Long-term goals
    • Mid-term goals
    • Short-term goals
    • Action plan (including any professional training or development you might need)

Once you’ve documented your plan, it’s time to act on it! Remember to regularly revisit your plan each time you reach a milestone

Keep in mind that your career (and the world) is constantly evolving. Leave room for some flexibility—that way, you can course-correct if things don’t seem to be panning out the way you thought they would. 

Are you looking for a job that can help you develop both soft and hard skills? If you are, visit the Virtual Hub for more information!

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