Career planning is essential to achieving success in your chosen career. Whether you are aiming to be a bookkeeper in a small business or the finance director of a multi-national corporation, knowing in which direction you are headed and what is required will help you to achieve your goal.
Planning is a basic, yet key principle used by successful business people. So why not apply the same principles to managing your career? Formulate plans on a regular basis to control your direction, make the best use of your resources and measure your progress or results.
Our suggestions below may assist you with setting out your plans:
1) Explore possibilities
The initial step in formulating a career plan involves exploring the occupations and learning areas that interest you. Once you have some idea of your occupational preferences you can research the specific skills and qualifications required for those occupations. Ask yourself:
• How do my skills and interests match up with these occupations?
• Where are the gaps?
• What options do I have to gain these skills or qualify for these occupations?
• What skills do I need?
• Where is the work?
• How can I get advice on my capability?
At the end of this step you will have a list of preferred occupations and/or learning options.
2) Compare options
The next step involves comparing your options, narrowing down your choices and thinking about what suits you best. Ask yourself:
• What are my best work/training options?
• How do they match with my skills, interests and values?
• How do they fit with the current labour market?
• How do they fit with my current situation and responsibilities?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
At the end of this step you will have narrowed down your options and have more of an idea of what you need to do next to help you achieve your goals.
3) Take action
In the third step you need to look at what you need to do to put your plan into action. Ask yourself:
• What actions/steps will help me achieve my work, training and career goals?
• Where can I get help?
• Who will support me?
At the end of this step you will have a plan to help you explore your options further (eg. work experience, work shadowing or more research). Or, alternatively, you will have a plan which sets out the steps to help you achieve your next learning or work goal. Decide which step is relevant for you right now and start from there.
Actioning your career plan
Having the plan in place is just the start. Now comes the hard work! Bear in mind you have a number of resources available to you if you just look for them...
Your support network:
Consider your own network of contacts. Many opportunities become available through referrals and "word of mouth" - so, if you are able, spread the word amongst close friends as to what sort of role you are looking for.
As mentioned in the section on “Your Personal Brand and Online Profile”, making a good impression on a prospective employer now involves your online media profile, so make sure it is in good shape. Not all vacancies are advertised so networking will help you access opportunities.
However, effective networking covers more than simply adding new LinkedIn connections. It means staying in touch and one of the best ways to do this is to join an industry association or professional group and attend functions or seminars.
Referees are still very relevant in today’s jobs market despite the explosion of social media and online recommendations. Online recommendations are great for showing the skills you are best known for but they are not a substitute for the role references play.
On the whole, people are usually very willing to help you if they can. Get referees "ready" to take calls - there is nothing more positive for a prospective employer than to take a reference from an enthusiastic previous employer.
This is much more likely to be the case if you have discussed the prospect with your referee before they get the call. At the very least, you need their permission to give their contact details.
It’s also helpful to provide your referee with a bit of detail about the job and the key skills, qualifications and attributes the employer is seeking. You might also outline some of the examples of your work and achievements that you will be relaying in the job interview from the period of time when you reported to your referee.
Getting the best out of your Consultant:
Recruitment consultants are there to guide and assist you. The better they understand your career objectives the more likely they are to be able to help you achieve them. We like customers to be ours for life (or career at least!) so you can expect honest and open feedback and assessment as you progress through your career.
We want to collaborate with you to get the best results possible. One of the biggest issues is the communication between you and your consultant. If you don't feel as though he/she is giving you the right opportunities or talking to you about the right jobs, ask the consultant to restate to you what it is he/she is looking for on your behalf.
You may also change your mind about certain things from time to time as well as perhaps the salary you want or maybe the location. It is important for you to keep the communication going so that these changes can be activated promptly on your behalf.
Once you have taken action and have gained work experience in your chosen field you should consider your next move. Think of your career plan along the lines of a business plan. The key issues to cover are:
• What are my long-term career objectives?
• What will I want to get out of my job in the next five years or so?
• Do I need to study? If so, what for?
• What are my individual priorities?
These priorities and objectives may change over time and you need to check up from time to time to make sure you are on track.
So, to formulate your career plan, firstly you must set your long-term goals or objectives. For example - "In ten years time I want to be the financial controller of a large commercial organisation".
To arrive at this objective, you must consider personal and professional aspirations. Aim high with whatever you set out to achieve, both personally and professionally, but be realistic as goals that are obviously unachievable can be demotivating.
Don't be afraid to set long-term goals. They can be altered or amended as your aspirations or values change. Indeed, it is quite likely this will be the case.
The SMARTER system can be useful for planning your career goals:
• Specific - Be as clear as you can and avoid ambiguous statements.
• Measurable - Quantify what you have achieved.
• Achievable - Motivate yourself but also keep your goals reachable.
• Realistic - Be reasonable and keep your goals attainable.
• Timely - Create timeframes for completing steps. For example, doing short courses or developing industry contacts.
• Empowering - Ensure your goals feel right for you and help you make the changes you want.
• Reviewable - Keep your goals flexible.
Write clearly defined, short statements you can work towards. If you are unable to identify a specific job you want, indicate more general goals. You might be considering more than one idea and might want to keep your options open. In this case, specify your goals, but bear in mind it is unlikely you will realise all of them, so plan accordingly.
You can begin to prepare yourself for all your options, and over time you will probably find yourself becoming more focused about what you want to do, and the goals you are capable of fulfilling.
Once your long-term goals are in place, it is important to establish the steps you will need to take to reach those longer-term objectives. Again, these steps may need alteration where appropriate, but will be based on such considerations as academic qualifications, professional membership, technical experience and personal development.
With firm goals in place, you must obtain the right attitude. Enthusiasm is the catalyst to success. It makes your personal and professional experiences more enjoyable and satisfying. Remember, nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm!
Be aware of changing market conditions:
Things do change quite rapidly in the recruitment market. For instance, the computer system that was in great demand when you were last on the market two years ago is probably not so hot today! Be careful to research what is current, keep an eye on the press so you can keep track of salary changes, job description changes and so on.
One final note:
Career planning or goal setting will only achieve its purpose if you adhere to the principles of measuring your progress and following the path you have planned. This means it is important to write down your goals.
The process of putting pen to paper allows you to keep clear focus, check your achievements and make the necessary alterations when required. Imagine you are planning an overseas trip and the amount of time and energy you would devote to it. Your career will probably span the next thirty years of your life, so start planning now!