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How to develop a career action plan

Planning is vital to any job change. Career planning is not an activity that should be done once or upon leaving school or university and then left behind as we move forward in our careers.

It always amazes me that this is typically the case. When people come to meet with us, the majority don’t plan their career in any great depth but they expect to be earning a higher salary, and are disappointed they haven’t been considered for a recent promotion.

Create your career vision

Too often candidates haven’t done the preparation for the pay rise, promotion or career change, and will then leave it in the hands of the recruiter to try to achieve their goals for them. Remember that the onus is on you to create your career vision and to market and sell yourself into your next job or next promotion.

Career planning is not a hard activity and is not something to be dreaded or put off, but rather an activity that should be liberating and fulfilling – it should provide you with goals to achieve your current career aspirations or plans for beginning a transition to a new career. Career planning should be a rewarding and positive experience.

Here are a few tips to help you achieve successful career planning:

Set aside time to career plan

Most of us have a regular medical check-ups, take regular trips to the dentists and do a myriad of other things on an annual basis, so why not career plan too? Find a day or weekend (once a year) to lock yourself away and truly focus on your career. Ask yourself what you really want out of your career and what you ultimately want out of your life.

One of the first activities whenever you take on career planning is; spend time mapping out your career path since the last time you did any sort of career planning. While you should not dwell on your past, taking the time to review and reflect on the path, whether straight, narrow or one filled with any curves and dead-ends will help you plan for the future.

Once you’ve mapped your past, take the time to reflect on your course, and note why it looks the way it does. Are you happy with your path? Could you have done things better? What might you have done differently? What can you do differently in the future?

Become your profession

A career is about continuous building rather than isolated jobs and instances. It is about increasing your knowledge and building up a portfolio of skills and experiences which are the kinds of assets that companies need and value.

Too often people forget the building bit and get carried away by their emotions and by what seemed to a good idea at the time. For example, people start their career on a certain track and are quite happy for a while. But then they may decide it is time to move on, they may be pushed out involuntarily by the company or they may want to do something better or earn more. This is when mistakes are often made: people dive into jobs without assessing the impact this could have on their career.

So the key is to have a profession. A profession is what you do for a living, what you have spent time training to do or what you want to be doing. It is the crux of the career, giving it meaning, purpose and direction. Without it, a career will come unstuck, reach a halt or start to drift off on a tangent. It is then hard to sell a track record of this sort to an employer.

Assess and reflect

Change is a factor of life; everybody changes, as do our likes and dislikes. Something we loved doing two years ago may now be unsatisfying. So always take time to reflect on the things in your life, not just in your job, that you feel most strongly about. Understanding what motivates and drives you is crucial to success.

Make a two column list of your major likes and dislikes. Then use this list to examine your current job and career path. If your job and career still fall mostly in the like column, then you know you are still on the right path; however, if you job activities fall mostly in the dislike column, now is the time to begin examining new jobs and new career paths.

Finally, take the time to really think about what it is you want or need from your work, from your career. Are you looking to make a difference in the world? To be famous? To create wealth? To assert change? Take the time to understand the motives that drive your sense of success and happiness.

Believe in yourself

Do you really believe in yourself, your talents and your abilities? If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you plan for greater things? If you don’t have the advantage of drawing upon inner confidence, then you will need to build yourself up.

Try changing your attitude towards certain situations that you would normally dread or avoid. For example, instead of reverting to the negative see the positive in situations and experiences.

Focus on your key skills. What are they? How could you really promote these on paper? Think about how you can show that you are a real asset to the organisation. Practice believing that you are capable of so much more. Notice how you feel and notice what resistance comes up in your mind.

Create a winning resume

Most people don’t keep a very good record of work accomplishments and then struggle with creating a powerful resume when it’s time to search for a new career. Making note of your past accomplishments, keeping a record of them, is not only useful for building your resume; it’s also useful for career planning and your ego.

Sometimes reviewing your past accomplishments will reveal forgotten successes, which may trigger researching and planning a career shift so that you can be in a job that allows you to accomplish the types of things that make you most happy and proud. Does your CV do all this? If not, then make the investment now to sell yourself professionally on paper and discover how a new look CV will advance your career further

Research further career opportunities

One of the really fun outcomes of career planning is picturing yourself in the future. Where will you be in a year? In five years? A key component to developing multiple scenarios of that future is researching career paths.

If you’re in what you consider a dead-end job, this activity becomes even more essential to you. Take the time to research various career paths and then develop scenarios for seeing one or more of these visions become reality.

Look within your current employer and current career profession, but again, as with all aspects of career planning, do not be afraid to look beyond to other possible careers.

Knowledge is power

Watch, talk to and draw upon other people’s professional knowledge, reputation and skills when planning your career. These people will be experts in their field and will be higher up on the career ladder so their position, experience and expertise can help you to further your career. So how do you use these people?

As a role model: Having a role model is an easy and worthwhile way in which to develop a career. A role model is a person you can watch closely to see how he/she deals with different people, situations and problems. The role model can pass on tips and techniques to save you time, energy and effort in the long run. Anyone can be a role model but it is usually a boss. Remember the emphasis of the relationship is on learning and progression and not on being pals.

As a mentor: This relationship is different from having a role model because the mentor is not usually your boss but someone higher up than you in the organisation. The mentor benefits from the relationship because he/she is building up a reputation for developing people within the organisation. The benefit of a mentor is that he/she can offer you a confidential and open relationship because the mentor doesn’t appraise you. The role of the mentor is to advise, encourage and talk from a personal experience but avoid relying too heavily upon the personal.

Just do it

Don’t wait too long between career planning sessions. Career planning can have multiple benefits. Once you begin regularly reviewing and planning your career using the tips provided in this article, you’ll find yourself better prepared for whatever lies ahead in your career and in your life.

Final thoughts

People who have fulfilling careers have invested in themselves and have used this investment to fulfill their dreams and expectations. In short, they have made their own luck. Focus your energy on building skills, learning from the people around you and creating a vision for the future. Become a real expert at your job and remember to sell yourself. Whatever you want, go and get it. Do what you love, love what you do.

Reinvent Your Career would like to thank the Yahoo! 7 Finance where this article first appeared.

 

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