With a personal career plan, you can focus on what you want to do and how to get there. By working through the steps below you’ll end up with an effective plan for having the career you really want—one rooted in your key strengths and personal values, giving you a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Step 1: Set the scene
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What motivates you?
- What are your priorities when it comes to your career? E.g. salary, working hours, location. When you have a list, rank them in order of importance. Are there any you would be willing to sacrifice?
- What kind of workplace culture or environment do you thrive in?
- What values are important to you?
- What are your key skills?
- Which skills do you enjoy using the most?
Looking at past job descriptions and achievements, asking friends and colleagues and strengths profiling assessments can help you with this self-analysis.
Step 2: Explore your options
With a clear idea of your skills and priorities, you can explore the career options open to you. Here are a few ways to start generating ideas:
- Look at online job boards to see what kind of opportunities are on offer. Use your list of skills and priorities to focus your search
- Talk to colleagues, friends and family. They may suggest potential roles that you haven’t considered
- Read financial or business press to research companies and industries and identify organisations you might like to work for
- Use LinkedIn to learn more about the structure of companies, their role profiles and the career paths their employees have taken
Once you’ve generated some ideas, you need to assess the viability of each option. For example, you might find that you need to undertake a training course, move location or take a pay cut to pursue some of the opportunities you’ve identified. You’ll need to be realistic as to whether you can commit to making those changes.
Looking at each option, in turn, use the GROW model to map out what you would need to do to reach each potential goal.
- Goal: What is the goal/idea/opportunity?
- Reality: Where are you currently, in relation to that goal? Is it viable now?
- Options (or obstacles): What are your options? What challenges might you face?
- Way forward: How committed are you? What steps do you need to take to move closer to your goal?
Once you’ve identified your preferred option and assessed how viable it is, you’ll have your ultimate career goal and an outline of the steps you need to take to achieve it
Step 3: Set short term goals
The key to a successful career plan is having both a long term vision and short term goals.
The long term vision you identified in Step 2 will keep you focused and on track. Having your end goal in mind will make it easier to spot new opportunities as they come along.
Your short term goals are the steps you need to take to achieve your long term vision. Working through these milestones, whether they’re skills-based, salary based or responsibility based will keep you motivated as you move closer to achieving your long term goal.
Your short term goals should be SMART:
- Specific: Your goals must be clear and well defined
- Measurable: Quantify your goals so you can track your progress. How will you know when you’ve achieved them?
- Achievable: Goals that challenge or stretch you will help you stay motivated, but don’t set yourself up for failure
- Relevant: Ensure that your goal is aligned with your other short and long term plans
- Time-based: Setting yourself deadlines will help you take action and stay motivated
Step 4: Grow your skillset
To move forward with your career plan you’ll need to identify and acquire the relevant key skills and competencies. For example, does your desired role require analytical reasoning and commercial awareness, or does it rely more on strong communication skills and leadership qualities? Start by researching relevant job descriptions to identify educational and training requirements.
Next, consider the different ways you can learn the skills you need. Are there courses, workshops or conferences you could attend? Could you work with a coach or mentor? Are there additional responsibilities you could take on to gain more experience and exposure?
As you develop your skills, you’ll find your short term milestones and long term goal become more easily attainable.
Step 5: Expand your network
Remember it’s all about who you know. An effective network will open up new opportunities and give you more insight into your chosen field.
Start by building connections with friends, family, past and present colleagues, and managers on LinkedIn. Join relevant groups, attend networking events if possible, and set up informal meetings with your contacts to help build and maintain each relationship.
Step 6: Track your progress
No performance review, appraisal or career conversation should go by without direct reference to your career plan. Keeping your goals in mind will mean you’re always ready to take advantage of the development opportunities that come your way. And remember to reward yourself whenever you reach one of your milestones - celebrate your success!
Develop a tailored career development plan with one to one support from a professional career coach. Find out more.