How to Create a Successful Career Plan

How to Create a Career Plan |

Career planning can help you make more successful choices when you’re deciding your career path. It involves considering your skills, experience and aspirations to make attainable goals throughout your career. Learning what to include in a career plan and how to create one can help you build a solid foundation for your professional future.

What is career planning?

Career planning is the process of creating a career path that meets your professional goals. It is a process that can take various forms depending on your personal preferences. You can plan your career using a journal, a spreadsheet or a timeline.

Regardless of which format you choose to use, your career planning process should involve these important components:

  • Self-assessment: An important step in career planning is considering your own goals, priorities, skills, preferences, needs and values. These should all inform what kind of career and work environment you decide to pursue.
  • Research: You can make more informed career choices with details, data and information. Efficient career planning involves thorough research on topics like average salaries, educational requirements and qualifications.
  • Trial and error: Most career plans are based on personal experience. You should always consider your past work history and what you learned from previous positions when considering the future of your career.
  • Decision-making: The most important step of career planning is making decisions regarding your career path. This involves choosing several valid options, considering the pros and cons of each and deciding which option to pursue based on the information you have collected.

When you include all of these tools in your process, you can make more thorough, informed choices.

How to plan your career

The career planning process typically follows these key steps:

1. First, evaluate your work history

The first step in career planning is to assess your previous work experience. It may help to make a list of all the important skills you gained and the responsibilities you earned while holding previous positions. These are typically important items to add to your resume and cover letter.

You can also write down what you liked and disliked about each of your previous jobs. Think about the work environment and duties like whether you enjoyed working outside or if you thrived under a certain management style. Your past experiences can help you to determine what kind of job and work environment you want for the future.

2. Second, consider your education level

Many jobs have specific education requirements. Some jobs are available to anyone with a high school diploma. Other employers require candidates to have a bachelor’s or even master’s degree in order to be qualified. Before you can plan your career, you should find out if you need to pursue additional education.

If you are just beginning your career, you can start by researching potential jobs and taking note of the educational requirements. You may need to attend a university, enroll in a certification program or take an online training course. If you’re an established professional with years of experience, you may need to go back to school to qualify for a promotion or transition to a different industry.

3. Third, asses your professional skills

The next stage of career planning is making a list of your hard and soft skills. Some examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork, time management and creativity. Examples of hard skills include computer programming, accounting, copywriting and typing.

The skills you use at work include general and technical abilities that you learned over the years. You probably learned some skills in school, during your career and through personal interests and hobbies. Your skill set can be an important factor in the industry and field you choose. For example, if you have excellent negotiation skills, you may excel in a sales career.

Making a list of your skills can help you to research and visualize which jobs would be a good fit for you. If you are missing key skills that you need to qualify for your ideal job, you can make self-improvement a part of your career plan. You can learn new skills through taking classes, reading instructional books, finding a mentor or working as an intern.

4. Fourth, set long-term goals

You should guide your career plan with long-term goals. Your goals can incorporate several important factors, including:

  • Leadership aspirations
  • Preferred lifestyle
  • Location
  • Retirement plan
  • Professional goal

You can set goals for different stages of your life, such as five, 10 or 20 years in the future. Creating a timeline for your goals helps you identify and focus on the steps that will help you accomplish them. These steps may include moving to a new area, earning a certification or working toward a promotion. Setting career goals for yourself also helps you intentionally make choices that will benefit you long term.

5. Then, determine your salary range

A key part of career planning is determining what kind of salary you need to earn to live your desired lifestyle. This number may depend on where you live and if you support anyone. Your salary is usually affected by a range of important factors, including your geographical location, chosen industry and level of education. It is important to find what kind of salary you can expect and how much you are qualified to ask for.

When career planning, you should research the average salary amounts for any potential jobs. You can also find out if there is any variance depending on education or certifications. For example, a sales manager may earn more if they have a master’s degree in addition to a bachelor’s degree.

You can also estimate the cost of living in your community and create a sample budget to help you determine how much you need to make each year. Once you have this information, you should be able to accurately find your salary range.

6. Finally, research job outlook

When career planning, the final step is to research the job outlook for any potential occupations. Researching job outlook involves finding out how many open positions there will be in your chosen field during a certain time frame. Organizations like the Bureau of Labor Statistics collect data from professionals across the country in order to provide accurate estimates regarding job outlook.

Knowing the job outlook for multiple careers allows you to make important decisions about your career goals and timeline. If an industry is estimated to experience considerable growth in the next five years, you may want to consider pursuing a career in that industry.

Make sure you have all of your goals and data in one place so you can refer back to it easily. Though your career plan likely won’t change much, you may need to alter some of your goals to fit a new timeline or location.

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