Opinion

5 secrets for a clever career plan

5 secrets for a clever career plan

Too often we fail to plan ahead for our career. This is a little bit odd, especially when you consider how important our jobs are to us. In most cases, we spend more time at work than we do with friends and family, and the salary defines where and how we live.

We probably wouldn’t move house without a smart plan of action. Nor would we get married without assessing what we want and don’t want for the big day. Some of us even plan in detail for our holidays. This is because we want to get the best out of the event and reduce the risk of anything bad happening!

Yet it’s very common for many of us to ‘go with the flow’ in our career rather than looking closely at our true aspirations. The risk is that without some sort of strategy we could make the same mistake again and again but still wonder why we’re not happy at work.

Thinking things through carefully can give us a better chance of finding a career that is more aligned with our personality and values. So we have put together some tips to help you start planning your way to the right career:

Let your values influence your career

Whether you’re a school leaver, graduate or an experienced employee, a plan can give you direction. Think about what’s important to you. What do you like doing? What are your hobbies? Can you plan your career so you can incorporate these into your day-to-day work? Even if you’ve been working for many years, there’s no reason why you shouldn't start planning so you can eventually find a job that reflects what you are passionate about.

Play on your strengths

Look closely at your strong points and your weaknesses. And be 100% honest! You might not be great with complicated spreadsheets, but you might be an outgoing people person.  As you analyse and jot down a list of your strongest skills, you’ll begin to see which ones you’re using at the moment. And if you’re keen to start using your top talents a lot more, then you have a very good basis to start looking for a role that is more satisfying.

Identify your professional goals

Different people want different things from their career. Some want material success, while others want to support other people’s welfare. What about you? What are your goals in life? Are you happy to spend long hours in the office or do you want to work from home? Do you want to re-train for a big career change? Do you want to live abroad but be able to stay in the same profession? Ask yourself lots of questions and get excited and inspired by the possibilities!

Discover your talents

Your career history can help you plan ahead.  Take another look at your previous successes and how you achieved them. Do you have any milestones in your career that you don’t really talk about but that could really influence your career? Part of career planning is to help you ‘own’ your achievements. Once you identify those key moments, you can talk about them with pride, highlight them on your CV and mention them in job interviews. Humility may be a virtue, but don’t be too modest in this case!

Include your personal aims

If you have a good career plan, you should be able to plan for most major personal events. For example, starting a family can cause disruption to women’s working life; if they wish to continue building their career after maternity leave, then planning ahead can help take the pressure off and could even open up new opportunities.

Also, if you’re thinking of taking a career break or a sabbatical, planning is vital. Make the most of this precious personal time to consider whether you’re really happy professionally. If not, why not? Whether you’re taking a well-deserved break at home or backpacking around India, if you fail to plan you could end up returning to a job that isn’t exactly your cup of chai!

A career plan is a road map to your future. It may need tweaking every now and then, but it will give you more influence over your career, and that’s wonderfully rewarding.