How to Begin Your Career Planning Process
In this article:
What is Career Planning?
Career planning isn’t just for those just leaving school, everyone can benefit from career planning to help make the best decisions for your career growth.
Career planning is the process of setting goals to help with making decisions about what you want to do with your life and how you’ll accomplish these goals. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t just a one time activity, it should be an ongoing process that you revisit and update as your goals change.
This process can look different for everyone, but the starting point is the same across the board. Begin your career planning process by considering what you value and what skills you possess. Having a clear understanding of this will create a solid foundation for you to build from as you begin exploring the kinds of careers or roles that align with what you want. This process can involve assessment tests, career coaching, and additional educational programs.
When to Start Career Planning
The pressure to define a career path usually begins right out of high school, with college subjects and majors needing to be decided. Let’s say this once and loud enough for those in the back, it’s okay to not know what you want to do when you leave high school. That’s exactly what college, vocational programs, and entry-level positions and internships are for and why they are valuable experiences for those of us who may feel a little lost.
While the lucky few will know exactly what their life’s passion is, there’s good news for the rest of us: you can begin career planning at any point in your career and should continue to happen throughout.
Periodically assessing where you are and where you’re going gives you the opportunity to adjust your plan as you grow and change through your experiences.
How to Start Career Planning
The first steps to creating your own career plan contain the following four main areas; interests, skills, values and preferences.
What are you passionate about and can see yourself doing every single day? Find the thing you’d be happy doing even if you weren’t paid to do it, the thing you’re so passionate about that you’re looking for ways to learn more about it. Take a look at the hobbies you enjoy most, these can provide a window into your passions. What major or subjects are you enjoying most, or which did you enjoy most whilst studying? Is there a clear theme you can distill from your personal book collection? All of these spaces will provide a clear view as to the passions you follow simply for pleasure.
What skills do you most excel at? What skills have you been praised for in your work or at college? What skills have you developed through your career journey thus far? Identifying these skills will help guide you as to your strengths and weaknesses.
What ways do you want to make a difference? What do you value most about yourself and those around you? Identifying your values will help to guide you towards the best career path to meet them.
Allow yourself to visualise your dream day at work. What does your ideal work environment look like? Are you in an office or in your own space? Are you endlessly busy or does your day slow down? How much time are you affording to the other things in your life, friends, family and hobbies? What does your bank account look like, is it overflowing or are you comfortably getting by? Visualising your ideal work experience will help you to further refine the next steps in your career.
7 Steps to Structure Your Career Planning
Defining long term career goals can be a daunting task, but once you have your action plan in place it allows you to accelerate your career growth through streamlining where you decide to invest your energy.
Taking the time to commit your thoughts to paper or whatever visual way works best for you, helps you to formalise and keep track of your thoughts.
But where do you start? Here are 7 easy steps to get started:1. Self-evaluation
The first step in every career planning process begins with a deep understanding of yourself. Knowing yourself is key to choosing the right career path, and ensuring that you won’t be unhappy down the line. This is the most important step of the process so be sure to give yourself the time you need to explore yourself.
Another option here is to schedule a career coaching session and working with a professional to discover and define the next best steps for your career based on your wants and needs. Take a look at the career coaching options offered by Wizco and set up a meeting with one of 5000+ career experts to help guide you to the career of your dreams.
2. Do your research
Let your mind wander through the endless possibilities for your career. In a perfect world, what would you be doing for a living? Where would you be?
Using your ideal set up, start googling the companies and job titles you’re most drawn to. Next head over to LinkedIn and search using the titles and companies you’ve found, what roles and responsibilities do those roles focus on? What does the company hierarchy look like? What educational background do those in this role have?
3. Define the basic steps
While there won’t be one right path towards your dream career, there may be specific steps you’ll need to take in order to start your journey. For example, if you want to become a Neuro Surgeon, you won’t get there if you haven’t attended medical school. Defining the non-negotiable short-term goals for your dream role and how you get there from where you are currently will help lay the foundation for your next steps.
4. Find organizations that align with your values
While you’re in the process of googling and LinkedIn searching, pay close attention to the companies that have open positions. Could you see yourself working within these companies? For some, the type of company they’re employed by is more important than their title or role. For others, the industry or organization’s mission is an important deciding factor. Figuring out which of these matters most to you will help you make important decisions about your future.
5. Find entry-level positions
Once you have an idea of what role and which companies you’re working towards, take a look at other roles in the same department. If, for example, you want to become Creative Director, look at the other open positions, within the same department and those reporting to the director. What’s the easiest way to get into the company? Are there any entry level or higher up positions that you qualify for?
6. Decide on the right next step
Define which of your short-term goals will help to get you closer to the position you’re focusing on. These will be slightly different depending on hwo aligned your current position and field are to the one of your dreams. If you’re wanting to grow within the field you are in, simply sending out your resume will help get you clsoer to your next step. If you’re looking to take a completely new path and change industries, it would be wise to invest your time in furthering your education through courses or graduate school. Or, if you’re happy within your current industry and enjoy the company you’re employed by, it would be wise to approach your manager to begin discussing a development plan to help you reach your goals.
7. Share your plans
As humans, we often have anxiety around perceived failure which means that we may not be inclined to share our hopes and dreams with those around us. Ultimately, this lack of information creates a space in which support isn’t able to flourish.
Sharing your hopes, dreams and career plan with those around you creates a space in which you will be supported to reaching your goals. Those around you will surprise you with their willingness to help you reach your goals, providing advice and potentially putting you in touch with connections to help you get there.
Helpful Tips to Get You Started
Now that you have identified your dream title, industry or company you’re probably excited to get moving towards your dream.
To get you started we’ve included even more helpful tips to to help you get started:
- Volunteer. The best step when you’re wanting to move across industries, just because you can’t find a role to step into doesn’t mean you can’t gain experience. Find an organization that aligns with your goals and donate your time.
- Start a conversation. Your college, university or professional school will undoubtedly have some sort of alumni network, joining a network like this will open doors that weren’t open before. Remember, networking is an undervalued step in career development, don’t pass up the opportunity to increase your chances.
- If you’re able, internships are a great start. This gives you the opportunity to work with aspirational people and companies while making all important connections and furthering your network.
- Build on your skills. Furthering your professional abilities not only allows you to improve upon your skills, but shows how passionate you are about the industry and your want to succeed.
- Critically review your resume. It may have been a while since you last assessed your resume, as this is the first introduction to you as a professional it’s important to critically assess it as you begin to take your next career steps. There are templates for both resumes and cover letters all over, saving you time and giving you a clear idea as to what to include.
Now that you have a clear understanding of what a career plan is, how you begin your own career planning process and all the tips you need, it's time to get started. Don’t put this off till tomorrow, begin while you’re feeling passionate and inspired. Remember that the average person spends 25% of their time at work, make sure that you spend this time doing something you’re passionate about.