It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your career – whether you’re just starting out, have suffered a serious setback, or just need to change direction slightly – a career plan will help you work out where you want to go and how to get there.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, simpler is better. It’ll be easier to remember and follow. To help you get started, we’ve put together a five-step framework you can use. Let us know if it’s useful!
1. Start with the end in mind
First, ask yourself what you really want. What’s your end goal? Do you want to become the next CEO? Do you want to open your own consultancy? Do you want to become the head of your division?
Write your goal down – and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day.
2. Dig deeper
- Understand your industry. How well do you know your industry? Can you see how it’s changing and evolving? What skills can you start developing now to make sure you’re a valuable employee in five years’ time? Are there any groups or industry bodies you can join to help shape the future of your industry and position yourself as a leader within it?
- Understand yourself. Have you ever performed a SWOT analysis on yourself? It’s an uncomfortable thing to do – especially if you do it properly by asking colleagues and managers for honest feedback – but it’s invaluable. You can use it to create goals that take advantage of your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
- Spend time with people who’ve already made it. Your network has the power to launch your career into the stratosphere – but only if it consists of people who can help you achieve your goals. Attend industry events, build up your LinkedIn profile, find a mentor. These people can share their experiences with you and help you set specific career goals.
3. Be SMART.
When creating your career plan, it helps to be specific. Think about an athlete training for the Olympics. She knows exactly where she wants to be in four years’ time, but without a training plan, she’s unlikely to get there. So, she works with a coach to set specific, measurable, time-sensitive goals.
This will keep you motivated and make it easier for you to maintain momentum when the going gets tough.
SMART is a helpful acronym for goal setting. SMART goals are:
- Specific. For each goal, think about what exactly you want to achieve and how you’ll do it.
- Measurable. How will you know when you have achieved the goal? In other words, what does success look like?
- Achievable. Do you have the skills and resources to achieve the goal, or is there a step missing?
- Relevant. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Make sure that each goal you set will actually help your career.
- Time-bound. Give yourself a deadline to achieve each goal.
4. Change your thinking
We are often our own biggest critics when we should be our biggest cheerleaders. Again, think about how an athlete would approach a race or a big game. They understand how powerful their own beliefs are, so they spend a lot of time visualizing – or rehearsing – their success.
Manchester United Striker, Wayne Rooney says he often lies in bed the night before a big game and visualizes himself scoring goals.
Here’s a TEDx video to help you get started:
5. Share your plan with your manager
Hopefully your manager is already working on a career plan with you. If not, why not help them develop their leadership skills by asking them to get involved?
If you really want to be a change-maker, you could approach your HR department and suggest that they implement a career development initiative. This is something that our software helps companies around the world do.