Career planning is not an activity that should be done once — in high school or college — and then left behind as we move forward in our jobs and careers. Rather, career planning is an activity that is best done on a regular basis — especially given the data that the average worker will change careers (not jobs) multiple times over his or her lifetime. And it’s never too soon or too late to start your career planning.
Career planning is not a hard activity, not something to be dreaded or put off, but rather an activity that should be liberating and fulfilling, providing goals to achieve in your current career or plans for beginning a transition to a new career. Career planning should be a rewarding and positive experience. Here, then, are 10 tips to help you achieve successful career planning.
1. Make Career Planning an Annual Event
Many of us have physicals, visit the eye doctor and dentist, and do a myriad of other things on an annual basis, so why not career planning? Find a day or weekend once a year — more often if you feel the need or if you’re planning a major career change — and schedule a retreat for yourself. Try to block out all distractions so that you have the time to truly focus on your career — what you really want out of your career, out of your life.
By making career planning an annual event, you will feel more secure in your career choice and direction — and you’ll be better prepared for the many uncertainties and difficulties that lie ahead in all of our jobs and career.
2. Map Your Path Since Last Career Planning
One of your first activities whenever you take on career planning is spending time mapping out your job and 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 and 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?
3. Reflect on Your Likes and Dislikes, Needs and Wants
Change is a factor of life; everybody changes, as do our likes and dislikes. Something we loved doing two years ago may now give us displeasure. So always take time to reflect on the things in your life — not just in your job — that you feel most strongly about.
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 your job activities fall mostly in the dislike column, now is the time to begin examining new jobs and new careers.
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 become financially independent? To effect change? Take the time to understand the motives that drive your sense of success and happiness.
4. Examine Your Pastimes and Hobbies
Career planning provides a great time to also examine the activities you like doing when you’re not working. It may sound a bit odd, to examine non-work activities when doing career planning, but it’s not. Many times your hobbies and leisurely pursuits can give you great insight into future career paths.
Think you can’t make a hobby into a career? People do it all the time. The great painter Paul Gauguin was a successful business person who painted on the side. It actually wasn’t until he was encouraged by an artist he admired to continue painting that he finally took a serious look at his hobby and decided he should change careers. He was good at business, but his love was painting.
5. Make Note of Your Past Accomplishments
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 job. 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.
Sometimes reviewing your past accomplishments will reveal forgotten successes, one or more 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.