Exams are over, results are in and a school’s out.
You’re just about ready to start your journey into the professional realm of adulthood AND you’re aware that a little career planning is in order if you want to increase the chances of success later in life, good for you!
However, you don’t really know where to start. How far along should your strategy go when it comes to your career path?
Do you need a short-term, medium or long-term plan? Which one of the three is best anyway? How exactly should you go about planning your career? These are just some of the questions that may be pounding through your mind as you embark on this phase of your life.
Fret not. Career planning shouldn’t be as overwhelming as you might think.
With a little guidance, you can measure and solidify your professional aspirations, accomplishments and vision. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on developing your 5, 10, or 15-year career plan.
Year 1 to 5 – a short-term plan
Identify your goals – The first few years of your career plan should be focused on the immediate future. You can start by identifying your immediate goals. Maybe you want to find an entry-level position in your chosen industry or want to complete 100 volunteer hours to kickstart your industry experience. Whatever the case may be, hone down on EXACTLY what you want to achieve in the short term. The more details you can think of, the better off you may be.
Be specific – Expect your career objectives to be only as achievable as you make them. Specificity can be an integral part of the planning process. You can’t just hope to be successful or wealthy but you should be specific about HOW you’re going to achieve these objectives. Are you, for instance, looking to develop your experience in an engineering field? Seek out additional resources that can help you learn more and grow your value as a potential candidate. Want to go into finance? Arrange to connect with mentors for more extensive feedback on how to approach the industry.
Create a timeline – Timing can be just as important as specificity. The more realistic your timeline predictions, the more likely you are to strategically conquer milestones. Break your plan down into monthly increments in order to help ensure that you have enough time to realistically complete each step. Give yourself a checklist containing what needs to be done each month and try your best to stick to the schedule.
Establish control – Which of your plan’s factors can you do something about and which are you not able to do anything about? It’s a good idea to start thinking about this aspect so that once you’ve broken down and categorised things that you may be able to do something about, you may then be able to prepare yourself for unexpected moments.
Year 5 to 10 – at the peak of your career
Invest in yourself – Once you’ve learned the ropes in your career of choice and you’ve familiarised yourself with the basics, step up your game either by further improving on your skillsets or adding value through diversification. You could take initiative and pursue courses related to your field or make use of available resources and try to stay ahead of the curve at work.
Focus on moving up – You might find that the 5 to 10-year mark is considered by many to be the time when you should start thinking about a significant climb up the corporate ladder. Work yourself up to becoming a middle manager or supervisor (considering that you have proven yourself up to this point).
Make use of a network – It can be important to understand that who you know can translate to an astonishing boost in your career progression. Remember that and develop a professional network with contacts that you compile at all levels of your chosen industry. Keep in touch with them (you can use social media). Do favours for your network (such as referring jobs to them) and don’t be shy to ask for help as well. Let them assist you with getting to where you want to be in your career.
Year 10 to 15 – going the distance
Aim even higher – By now, your experience and time spent in the field of your choice should be worth something. It’s time to start thinking about an end goal. Will you receive a promotion and become director maybe? Next in line as vice president of the entire corporation? Start identifying the stepping stones on the path towards achieving this vision.
Develop a leadership mindset – If you’ve been performing consistently for 10 to 15 years in a field, you’ve probably earned the right to be called a veteran. However, being an expert isn’t enough (especially if you’re gunning for a leadership role). Expand your horizons and tweak your mindset into the mindset of a leader. There are loads of resources out there that can help you with this.
Surround yourself with good people – If you aim to be a leader, put together a team of cooperative and well-functioning peers who can help steer the vessel of your career. Connect with new mentors, experts or confidants. A little help can really go a long way.
Remember that these are just plans, however. They don’t necessarily have to be set in stone and they are here to function as guiding lights that glow dimly, making things in the distance slightly clearer as you head towards the future. As you progress, you’re probably going to find that your career will travel down long and winding roads and things can really change for better (and for worse). Your goals may change midway or you may have to adapt to a situation that’s presented itself. As you go through the challenges and developments you might face, don’t be too rigid about trying to predict your career’s destiny. Enjoy the ride, learn, grow and be flexible but, at the same time, have a clear direction, stick with it and build on your previous experiences. Remember, life is finite and past a certain point in your career, it might be difficult to backtrack too far and start over.