Every recent graduate or new starter should consider developing a career plan before starting their job search. This will help to clarify what your long-term and short-term goals are for your career and outline a realistic path to get there. It will also make it easier to focus your job search on the right positions and help you to stay motivated, as you make progress against your objectives.
Your career plan should cover off the following:
Your career goals
This includes both short-term goals, such as the type of company (sector, niche, values etc) for which you’d like to work, as well as your longer-term ambitions, including, crucially, what you hope to achieve during your career. A career goal should not be limiting but should assist with direction and focus. Be open-minded and expect the odd change or disappointment along the way; not all career goals are met and your wants and needs are likely to change as you become older and more experienced. But they can be really valuable in helping you to stay focused on the right opportunities to get ahead.
It can also be beneficial to align your career goals with aspirations in your personal life. Though it is usually difficult to accurately predict everything, especially if you are in the earlier stages of your career, you’re likely to find it gets easier with time.
Determine the steps needed to achieve goals
Once your goals are set, you can define a path that will get you there. This may include applying for new roles within your current company, changing companies to progress, moving abroad for the right role, or seeking additional training or studying for a professional qualification.
You’re likely to find that networking is hugely valuable in helping you to achieve your goals, giving you the inside track on certain opportunities, and helping you to understand what is expected and required in a certain industry. As they say, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, plus potential employers will see your curiosity as a definite sign of your interest and ambition.
Identify possible barriers to achieving your goals, so you can develop possible solutions in advance and anticipate potential setbacks. There are many possible barriers to career development, including personal circumstances, tough competition and lack of training or experience. But if you plan for these in advance, they don’t need to dampen your ambitions.
Short-Term Career Development
Focusing too much on long-term goals can be counterproductive, putting pressure on you to achieve unrealistic objectives and potentially resulting in shortcuts or inappropriate decisions. It is therefore vital to have a short-term career plan to keep track of your progress within a manageable time frame. Short-term career plans require developing realistic goals and objectives that are achievable within the next couple of years.
Long-Term Career Development
Long-term career development requires planning for the next five to ten years, and is equally important to ensure you moving in the right general direction to arrive there. However, career planning is not only an inward looking exercise, as you also have to understand which way the market and industry is moving. For example, do you need to upgrade your technical skills, given the increasing automation? Would you benefit from a stint in a fast growing developing market in Asia?
Ultimately, you have to make a decision based on your own skill-set and the market environment. Work towards making yourself more valuable to an employer.
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