Let’s be honest; most people don’t have a very clear plan about what they want to do in their careers. There’s always that kid who knows they’re going to be a doctor or a firefighter or a paleontologist, but most people just aren’t that focused. It’s hard to answer the question “Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?”
However, as we go through life, many of us have a general idea of what we want to accomplish in terms of our careers – topics we love, a lifestyle we want to fund, or even the work-life balance and fulfillment we hope to achieve. The trick is, without a solid plan, these long-term goals are often abandoned or unfulfilled because most people don’t have an actual plan for how they’ll achieve them.
That’s where career planning comes in. Career planning is essential for anyone who wants to take control of their future and reach success by their own definition. We will explore four key benefits of career planning, and how it can help you achieve your professional goals.
Why career planning is important
When it comes to finding success and happiness in your career, planning ahead is really the key. By taking a closer look at what you love, what you’re good at, and what you want to achieve, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling career that aligns with your passions and goals.
By creating a solid career plan, you’ll be able to make smart choices about your education, training, and job opportunities, which will help you build new skills and take advantage of exciting new possibilities along the way. Career planning is the foundation of a satisfying and enjoyable professional journey and career path.
Reason 1: Careers make up a big part of your life
Did you know that the average person spends around 86,400 hours of their life at work? That’s a big part of your daily experience. If you’re not happy with your job, in the short-term it may not seem like it matters all that much. Maybe you say “It’s fine for now,” but over time it can lead to frustration, burnout, and even depression. The good news is, with the right mindset, your career can be a source of inspiration and purpose.
How do you find a plan that aligns with your vision of a successful career?
When you’re setting long-term career goals, it’s important to figure out what matters most to you, whether that’s financial stability, independence, making a positive impact, or something else entirely. Once you know your priorities, use them to guide your decision-making process and make the most of your work-life.
Tip: Define success for yourself
There are a few questions you can ask yourself as you start thinking about what a successful career means to you:
- In what situations do I feel the most excited and inspired?
- When do I find myself losing track of time?
- What topics or current issues are particularly alarming or intriguing to me?
- When you think about your future, what are some values that arise for you? Is it flexibility, stability, time with your family members?
Take some time to explore your responses to these questions and look for themes or keywords that come up for you.
Reason 2: Personal development
Career planning is truthfully an essential part of personal development. It can help you not only achieve your long-term career goals and stay motivated, but also build your self-confidence and ensure you are aligning your career growth with your personal vision and priorities. By creating a solid career plan, you can gain a clear direction of where you want to go in your chosen career path and develop a roadmap for achieving your dream job, which ultimately will support your dream life.
Once you have explored your motivation and know where you want to take your career and how you want to grow personally, you can start planning for future career moves. This involves considering all the various career options, any required professional development, graduate school, perhaps starting a job search, and even pursuing other additional education.
A thorough career planning process starts by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and interests, as well as gaining knowledge of the industry and the world around you. Through career planning, you’ll also become aware of your qualifications and ability to accomplish tasks and gain the necessary skills to lead in your chosen field.
Tip: Consider your personal passions, gifts, and values as part of your career plan
Here are some questions to get you started:
- If image/other’s expectations were no issue, what would you do differently?
- If money were no object, how would you spend your days?
- If you knew you could not fail, what would you try or learn to do?
- What are the things that you tend to get thanked, complimented, or acknowledged for by your friends, family, and colleagues?
- What are things that come quite naturally to you, even though others might struggle with it?
- When were the times in your life when you felt wholesome, fulfilled, and completely at peace?
- If someone were to describe you in five words, what words would you most hope for them to use?
Go through the same process as the previous section. Take some time to explore your responses to these questions and look for themes or keywords that come up for you.
Reason 3: Education, career choices, and learning opportunities
Creating a career plan can provide you with a clear direction of where you want to take your career. You can plan ahead for any educational requirements, experiences, and learning opportunities. When you’ve defined your long-term career goals, it’s easier to work backward to figure out what your short-term goals need to be in order to get to your dream career.
Once you’ve determined your career trajectory, the next step is to identify the skills, certifications, and experiences that will support your future vision.
Tip: Don’t limit your focus to certifications and degrees.
Certifications, training, and degrees are a great place to start. However, don’t underestimate the importance of related jobs and positions where you can gain crucial career information for your professional development that may help you later on. And don’t forget about attending industry events and building your network! You never know where you might meet potential employers or learn of interesting positions and opportunities.
Reason 4: Career Planning helps you learn what’s not working
One of the most important pieces of why career planning is important is that it will create a clear set of milestones so you can clearly assess the progress in your current situation and pivot or adjust in real-time. This way you won’t waste years or decades of your career doing something that won’t bring you closer to your goals.
Once you have your definition of success and your goal, build out a tangible roadmap of milestones with deadlines. By doing so, you can easily monitor your progress and identify where things may not be working out. Perhaps you realize that you need to develop a new skill, or maybe you need to seek out a mentor or network with colleagues in your industry. Whatever the case may be, your career plan will help you identify the gaps in your current approach and make the necessary changes to keep moving forward.
Tip: Take the time to revisit your definition of success and then write out your “red flags.”
Here are a few to consider:
- You’re not making progress towards your goals: If you’ve set specific goals for yourself but are not getting closer to reaching them, it could be a red flag that something is not working in your current career path.
- You’re not enjoying your work: If you’re feeling unmotivated, unfulfilled, or unhappy in your current job or career, it’s important to take note of this and consider whether it’s a temporary feeling or a sign that you need to make a change.
- You’re not utilizing your strengths: If you’ve identified your strengths through career planning but find that you’re not using them in your current role, it could be a sign that you’re not in the right career or job for your skillset.
- You’re not being challenged: If you feel that your job is too easy or not challenging enough, it could be a sign that you’re not growing professionally and that you may need to seek out new opportunities to develop your skills and expertise.
- You’re not aligned with your values: If your job or career is not aligned with your personal values, it can cause feelings of dissatisfaction and even burnout over time. It’s important to assess whether your values are being reflected in your career and make any necessary adjustments.
A career plan will give you the framework to confidently navigate through obstacles and make course corrections to keep yourself on track. Don’t wait until you feel stuck or burnt out in your career. Start planning and taking action towards your goals today, and unlock your true potential! It’s unfortunate how many people think getting a job (any job) and focusing on hard work will necessarily mean they build a career that will support them and make them happy.
Not sure where to start? Check out our eCoaching course, The Career Empowerment Toolkit, to get over 20 tools and modules that will help you build a career you love.