Career planning is an extremely crucial but an overwhelming task. This is a step that is often skipped by most of the people in their professional lives. Planning your career means that you are not leaving things to chance but taking control of your career journey. This article will help you plan your career in a practical way.
What is career planning?
Career planning is a continuous process of setting individual professional goals and exploring ways to achieve them through self-evaluation, market research, and continuous learning. It is an important exercise to successfully manage your career.
Benefits of career planning
Career planning can help you in the following ways:
- Figure out your goals: It becomes easier to figure out personal objectives and goals through career planning. It is always better to chase your goals instead of working aimlessly.
- Save time and energy: Career planning helps you avoid going after a profession that does not align with personal goals and abilities. The earlier you plan, the better it is.
- Make confident choices: Career planning puts you in the driver’s seat in your career journey and lets you make confident choices for your future endeavors.
- Focus: You will be able to determine a clear path to follow with the help of career planning. It helps you avoid feeling lost and lets you focus on the right aspects.
Steps for successful career planning
The first step to successfully plan your career is to understand your own interests, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Begin by asking yourself the following questions –
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What motivates me?
- What am I good at? What are the things I am bad at?
- What kind of lifestyle do I want in the future?
- What are my personal goals?
- What are my biggest achievements and failures?
- What qualifications and experience do I have?
- What do I want to be known for?
There are various online tools that help you find your own interests and what type of job will be suitable for you.
- Career quiz - This quiz will give you a short summary of your personality and the kind of work that you will fit into.
- Personality test - This test gives you a comprehensive summary of your personality. It is also used by recruiters and counselors across the world.
- 123 career test - This test will allow you to figure out what sort of environments and occupations suit you the most.
Spend some time on self-introspection and write down your long-term and short-term career goals. Think about the kind of work-life balance you want to achieve. This is one of the most difficult in career planning but it sets the foundation for the next steps.
2. Market Research
Once you have discovered your own interests and strengths, it is time to figure out what is out there. Make a list of job profiles that align with your goals, interests, and strengths. Conduct a thorough research about market trends and read company reviews to get details about salary, work culture, growth opportunities, etc.
Talk to professionals working in different fields to get an on-ground perspective. Conduct informational interviews or try job shadowing a professional. During informational interviews, a job seeker seeks information from a professional about a job or career. Job shadowing means observing someone on the job. It could be for an hour or even for a week. Reach out to professionals within your network for these.
Make a list of job roles that you find interesting and would like to pursue. Once the list is ready for each of the job roles, ask yourself the following questions –
- Does this match my interest?
- Will this help me achieve my goals?
- What type of industry appeals to me the most?
- What type of job roles would suit me?
- Are my qualifications and abilities aligned with these jobs?
Market research helps you in making an informed decision about your career. Once you answer these questions, you have your list ready and it is time to move on to the next step.
3. Identify the gap
For all the desirable job roles that you have added to your list, write down skills, experience, and resources needed for each one of them.
Identify the gap between what you have and what you need to get these jobs. These could be skill gaps, experience gaps, qualification gaps, etc.
Talk to professionals and get an idea about the qualifications, experience, and skill requirements. You can also find job descriptions for various roles online.
4. Fill the gap
Once you have assessed the gap between what you have and what you need to for the shortlisted careers, find different ways of filling the gap. For instance, take up online courses to learn new skills or apply for an internship to gain relevant experience. This will give you a feel of the job role as well.
If you are serious about a job role, you may even consider going back to college for a full-time course. There is no age for learning and changing your career track. For example, if you think that MBA will give you a career boost then do not hesitate to enroll yourself in a business school. Make a practical choice, keeping in mind your personal circumstances. However, leaving a job and spending 2 years in an expensive business school may not be possible for everyone. Look for alternatives such as correspondence course or part-time courses.
There are various sites that provide online or distance learning courses such as Coursera, EdX, IGNOU, Udemy, etc.
5. Make a choice
Out of all the options that you have listed, it is time to narrow down your options. Assess the cost you need to incur for each of the roles. Go for the role that fits in well with your interests, goals, and abilities. In the earlier stages of a career, it is advisable to narrow down to 2-3 options. If you have done your research and evaluation diligently, you will be more confident about the choice you will make.
6. Create an action plan
Now that you have finalized your career goal, create an action plan to achieve them. By now you should be clear about where you are and where you want to be. A career plan should be time-bound and practical to achieve.
From taking up a course to writing your cover letter and updating your resume, plan out each step in detail. Assign timelines for every step. Check off the tasks as you complete them. Be open to improvising along the way as and when needed.
7. Review choices
In this fast-changing world, it is possible that the market or individual goals may also change. It is important to go back and evaluate your career plan. You may want to learn new skills or completely change your career path. It is important to stick to something that you truly like and are happy doing.
Tips for career planning
- Keep updated: Career planning is a lifelong process. So keep reviewing your plan and update it as per the changing market.
- Keep options open: If you do not find a desired role or company in your city, be open to exploring other geographies.
- Be realistic: Keep in mind your personal circumstances and available resources.
- Network: Connect with professionals within your network. Getting someone’s support and advice can speed up the process and broaden your perspective.
- Switch career: It is never too late to start over. No matter how old you are, if you are not happy with your current profession, do not hesitate to switch.
- Find a mentor: Find a mentor or a coach within your network. It can make a huge difference to your career in the long run. You can also take help of a professional counselor.
It may seem like a lot of work but career planning is worth it. It will boost your confidence and help you understand yourself better. So go ahead and start planning your career.