Career planning seems to make so much sense that it’s a wonder that everyone is not doing it. It’s a method to manage your career, keep track of progress or the lack of progress, set goals and take a pro-active approach to how you make a living. Planning and planning a career in particular is fundamental to overall career success.
Why then do so many neglect something that is an indispensable component to success? Here may be a few reasons why many neglect this key element to finding and growing their careers.
Many are afraid of failing. They may consider and start career planning, but they fail to implement their plan, and at the first sign of a lack of success they stop the process. They also may set their sights way out of reach. When their goals are not met they blame the plan and all activity stops.
Others with an abundance of experience conclude they have no need to create a career plan. This approach may work around the edges but to achieve something more meaningful experience will not replace a well thought out career plan.
On the other side of experience those with little practical experience and who, “don’t know what they don’t know,” and are moved by events outside their control. They never take the time to learn what is involved in career planning.
Finally, the major reason is laziness. Effective career planning is work. It takes thinking, research and continued effort. It can’t be an infrequent activity. If you plan on reading two books a month, for example, it does you little good trying to read 24 books on December 31st. If the time and effort is not expended you can’t expect positive long-term results.
If any of these reasons pertain to you, here are seven ideas to help you get started in your career planning.
1. Planning is not a foreign concept. You may plan your day and have a to-do list. Appointments and meetings are planned. If you have to attend a meeting across town, you start your trip to reach the meeting on time. If you can do these things you surely can create plans to achieve your goals.
2. Career planning is like a road map. Just as you get directions when you plan a trip to a place you haven’t been before, think of your career goals as a place you’ve never visited. You plan your trip, the roads you’ll travel, you estimate travel times, you call ahead for a room, and you pinpoint favorite places to eat or stop to see the sights. Your plan extra time for detours and alternative routes.
These actions are directly translatable to creating a career plan. The process remains the same instead of a physical location like a trip you have a series of career objectives that you are targeting.
3. Be realistic in setting your career goals. Start with small easily reached goals. As you move toward your vision of your future your more ambitious plans will be built on your previous successes.
Failure in your career planning usually starts with setting goals that are not realistic. It’s like planning to lose 20 lbs in one month. You can plan all you want but this amount in one month is unrealistic. Make sure your plan is doable, and as you get the experience, your plans can be more aggressive.
4. Use numbers in your plan. One might plan to read more career related books, but this goal can’t be measured. If you plan on reading two books a month for two years at the end of each month you can measure your progress.
5. Take action, start now. A beautifully done career plan in a leather burgundy binder that sits on a shelf gathering dust is worthless. On the other hand a flexible plan in a plain spiral notebook in which you write down ideas, keep track of progress, and add relevant goals and ideas; has a much greater chance of success.
Taking action to reach smaller goals makes the overall success of the plan much more certain and surely much more successful.
6. Keep moving, small efforts every day will always win against a big push once a month. In any career plan there will be barriers and missteps. Keep up the effort and plan for added challenges. Take a new approach by looking at your goals from a different direction. Whenever necessary get help when you become stuck. Be flexible and keep moving forward.
7. Successful people create winning career plans. Working a career plan can develop unplanned benefits. You attend a workshop to increase your skills and you meet someone who tells you about a career opportunity. You read a book and write an article that is published on the internet and it leads to a contact by a recruiter. You embark on a course of self-study and your employer enters into providing a new service and you have the knowledge to leverage your new skills into a promotion.
You have the planning skills; now put them to work on advancing your career. It will pay off in a variety of ways, some you may not realize when you start, but you will help yourself, be in a position to assist others and become more valuable to your employer. And isn’t this what the whole career planning project is all about?