Do you feel like your role isn’t taking you anywhere? Have you been in the same position for years, never moving up – in fact, barely moving at all? Do you want more from your work life? A dose of strategic and effective career planning may be the way forward.
Below, we will explain the importance of mapping out your career plans and how you can quickly and easily put these practices into place.
Why Is Career Planning Important?
One of the best ways to get the most from your career is to know exactly where you’re going. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, how can you possibly know what you need to do to achieve it?
That’s where career planning comes in. By creating a solid plan of action for your career, you will have a much better understanding of:
- What you want to achieve
- What you need to do to achieve it
- How long it will take to make it happen
- What skills you have already that you can use
- What skills you need to acquire or develop
Effective career planning is an important practice because it gives structure to the way you approach your work life. It will mean you’re more focused and less stressed. You will be able to complete tasks with purpose, understanding where each piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture.
So with this in mind, let’s take a look at where you should start with your own career planning.
Think About What You’re Trying To Achieve
This may seem obvious, but it’s where a lot of people go wrong. They don’t have a clear enough vision in mind of what they actually want from their career. Perhaps you want a complete change of direction. Or maybe you enjoy your current role but need more money and would like a pay rise.
Whatever it may be, consider what you want and hold on to that thought.
Setting Career Goals For Yourself
The next step is to set goals for yourself. And not just any goals; clearly-defined, achievable goals that can be measured. So instead of saying: “I want to get better at CSS”, you could say “I want to spend an hour a day doing online CSS courses for the next month”.
The reason the latter is better is because you can definitively say that you have achieved the goal. Either you have done an hour a day or you haven’t. Whereas the first example is somewhat ambiguous – what qualifies as ‘better’?
And not only that, but by completing the second, measurable goal, you will also be, in effect, completing the first goal. If you do an hour a day for a month, chances are, you’re going to get better at CSS.
Timing Is Everything
When setting goals for yourself, you should set multiple goals with a variety of time scales. For example, you could have a 1 month, a 3 month and a 1 year goal. In doing this, you’ll be actively working towards short term targets, while having a solid vision of where you want to be further down the road.
For example, let’s say you want a role as a front-end web developer. Your 1 year goal could be “secure a full time role as a front-end web developer with a minimum salary of £32,000“. This is a good goal to have. Why? Because it’s specific, measurable, and has a clear time scale.
Alongside this, in the short-term, you could “research required skills for a junior – mid range front-end web developer“. And on a mid-term basis, your goal could be to “put together a 6 piece portfolio to show to potential employers“.
Your short and mid-term goals will be updated as you complete them, allowing you to continually take measured and calculated steps towards your larger targets.
The Right Skills For The Job
Once you find yourself in a position where you have your targets in place, you need to look at how you can achieve them. And, more specifically, what skills will be required on your part to do so.
This is especially important if you are thinking about a change of career as you will be able to see what you need to learn to successfully make the transition.
A good practice to adopt is to create a list of all the skills required for the task you want to complete. Next to this list, create another list of the skills you already have. You could even include a score of how confident you are with each skill.
This will give you a clear insight into what you can already do, what you need to learn to do and what you could ideally improve on. This is also a good opportunity to ensure you’re not overqualified for the role.
Career Planning On An On-Going Basis
Once you’ve finished writing up your career goals and you’ve got a clear idea in your mind of what you need to do, that isn’t the end of the process. In fact, it’s really just the beginning. The best thing about career planning is that it can be applied to any point in your career.
Once you’re working on your goals, it’s important to keep checking back. Keep track of how long you have been working on your targets and look at how much time you have before your scheduled completion date. Does it look likely to happen? If not, why not? What could you do today to get your goal back on track?
Or, if you’ve already completed your goal, what is your next step? Let’s say you’ve reached your goal of landing a new role, now what? Your next goal could be to successfully pass your probationary period, if you have one. What does your role require you to do? How can you ensure these needs are met?
What Happens If Something Unexpected Occurs?
Life is full of twists and turns. There’s no doubt about it. And in these cases, there is often no amount of planning that can prevent the initial unexpected event from happening.
Whether it’s being made redundant or a change of heart on your part, sometimes you just have to go with it. And while it may not fit into your original plan, as I mentioned earlier, career planning is an on-going process. Set yourself some new goals that work for your new circumstances and continue with the process.
Whatever your goals are, we’re certain that using this simple method of setting targets, taking action and reviewing your progress will help you to achieve them.
Want to read more content like this? Sign up to our mailing list so that we can consistently deliver high-quality resources directly to you, giving you the tools to succeed in your career. By signing up, you will also receive our free report ‘6 reasons you won’t get your next IT job… and what to do about it‘.