Thursday, 23 November 2017

The importance of career planning

Most of us have a dream or ambition about what we want to achieve in our working lives. It’s often a dream we hold close, sharing with few – if any – of our colleagues for fear of appearing too ambitious or not hungry enough. However, how many of us will actually achieve what we set out to? How many of us actively manage our own career paths?

Rather than meaning that our focus is not on the job we’re currently doing, a realistic career plan is an essential component of personal and professional growth. It helps build the skills and capabilities we need in a structured way that enables us to realise our true potential.

Career plans, when created and reviewed properly, keep us motivated by setting a specific timeline for accomplishing the things we want to achieve. So how exactly do we set a meaningful career plan for ourselves?

Start with the big stuff

Where do you see yourself in five years / ten years from now? You’ve got to be clear about your destination before you can plot out your journey. Yes, it seems a long way off, but we’re talking about long term goals here – rather than incremental steps.

Be clear about what you can do already – and what you have still to learn

Once you know where you are heading, you need to conduct an honest skills assessment: what skills are you looking to develop? What gaps in your knowledge and experience do you need to fill? You need to be realistic with yourself about what you can do – and for those things where your skills are lacking, you need to develop a realistic training journey to build your capabilities. The skills you need might be achievable through your current job, or a training course. Other skills may require exposure to a different sector or job role in order to build the capabilities you need.

Decide on your career goals and desired jobs

The reality is that, while some career planning and coaching may be available within your organisation, most planning and career exploration needs to be undertaken in your own time, outside of work. Deciding on your career goals sometimes means coming to the realisation that what you really need lies outside of your current employer; similarly taking advice from your current employer may make you feel obliged to find an internal role that fits part of your career plan – yet still falls short of your big dream job. A true career plan is independent and impartial – and that means making the time outside of work to do it.

Put your career path plan in writing

A plan that isn’t written down is only an idea. Once that idea has been committed to writing, it’s a plan. Writing it down makes it real. It provides something tangible to review and measure and the legitimacy that’s needed to prioritise it in our lives. Share it with others – in full or in part - as necessary but in order to realise your goals and aspirations you need to treat your career path as a living, breathing document. There are plenty of templates freely available on the internet to help you on your way.

Finally, once you have your plan in writing – own it! No-one will ever care as much about your career as you do. The power to grow and develop your own future lies firmly in your hands. Seek support and assistance from others as you wish, but ultimately it’s all up to you.

You might also find this post about goal setting helpful:

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