Today’s professional world is chaotic, diverse, vast, and intimidating. Job markets are more competitive than ever, and a quality education is a must. Despite how demanding the job market is, finding your dream career and achieving your full potential is simple as long as you plan ahead.
Planning Your Career and Achieving Your Goals
Planning your career will help you make the most of your time, resources, and energy each and every day. Don’t think that planning your career and future goals is the same now as it was when you were in elementary school and your teacher asked you what you want to be when you grow up. While you might still want to be an astronaut or a fireman or woman, achieving your dreams takes dedication and focused efforts, not just playing with your toy space shuttle. If you are planning your career and future, here are 8 tips that will help you achieve everything you have always dreamed of.
Tip 1: Figure Out What You Really Want to Do
Whether you have recently graduated, you feel it’s time for a change, or you want to take your next big step, you need to know what you want to do before you can achieve any of those goals. College and your past professional experiences have given you a good background and understanding about what you enjoy. But if you still don’t have any idea what you want to spend your life doing, consider shadowing other professionals, speaking with your professors from college, or attending various seminars and trade shows. You are bound to find something you like if you try to sample as much as possible.
For those of you who are already in your preferred field or know what that field is, figure out what your long-term goals are. Do you want to start your own company, reach upper management at your current company, or narrowly focus your skills and become a consultant? If you don’t know, the best thing to do is ask questions. The more information you have, the better your decisions will be.
Tip 2: Consider Where You Want to Be when You Retire
A great way to reach your career goals is to make sure some of your goals span your entire professional life. Don’t limit yourself to a 5-year plan. While you need a solid 5-year plan in place, the big picture will help shape your decisions and actions for the next few decades and allow you to retire after a satisfying professional life.
Tip 3: Think of the Children!
Okay, so not everybody wants to or will have kids, and that’s fine. But you need to consider what you want your personal and family life to be like in order to plan your career goals. For example, if you want to be a stay-at-home parent for the first 5 years of your child’s life, you are going to take a different approach to your career than you would if you aren’t planning on getting married or having children.
Love and children can both happen unexpectedly, and that’s perfectly natural. However, make sure you plan your life around both possibilities if you think either one is something you might eventually want.
Tip 4: Reassess Your Goals Every Year
The world is changing every minute of every day. What is in vogue and popular one month might suddenly become irrelevant or obsolete the next. Whether you are a dog groomer or a financial analyst, changes in the world market will alter what you do now and what you can do in the future. Make sure you take time to step back, look at what you are doing, how the trends in your industry are changing, and decide if you want to follow them or how best to adjust to them. Change is inevitable, and that change can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how prepared you are.
Ideally you should look at your goals once or twice a year. That means you should take a weekend (or more time if you need it) to speak with your boss, your family, and anyone else that influences your decisions. Look at industry trends (which will require online and in-person research). And make attending an industry conference or seminar a habit. Chances are that you won’t need to change your goals too much each time you do this, and that’s fine. But you need to be ready to react when something major does happen, and this will make sure you are prepared for that inevitable change.
Tip 5: Network (in Person)
Social media and networking websites make it easier than ever to connect with thousands of people. However, don’t underestimate (or completely ignore) the importance of meeting people face-to-face and keeping in close contact with them.
Get to know people you work with, keep in touch with your professors, and attend any seminars or conferences you can. The more people you can meet and directly interact with the better. When the time comes that you begin looking for unique opportunities or experiences (such as a promotion or move to a new company), most industry leaders will turn to people they know in person before recruiting from social media.
Tip 6: Network (Online)
Networking in person is still the most important way to contact and stay connected with people. However, don’t dismiss the importance of social networking tools. Update your profiles as often as you can and make sure your online personality matches your true personality.
Tip 7: Certificates and Licenses
Most professions allow room for growth beyond college. Just because you earn an advanced degree does not mean you have done it all or reached your final destination. If you are interested in a certain field, make sure you figure out what types of tests, certifications, and licenses you will either be required to earn or can earn to enhance your skills and earning potential.
Take the SHRM certification, for example. If you are interested in a position in HR, this certification is not absolutely required for many jobs, but acquiring it will open new doors and possibilities. However, in order to take it you need a certain level of experience (not to mention a significant financial investment). Deciding whether you want to take the test will require careful planning and consideration of your situation and long-term plans.
Tip 8: Update Your Resume Every 2-6 Months
Are you enjoying your current position and see no reason to go anywhere else for the foreseeable future? Great, but you still need to keep your resume updated. Don’t have a resume? Write one. If you don’t know how, there are plenty of online resources or public writing courses that will help.
Updating your resume every few months will make it easier for you to keep it up to date without having to rewrite the entire thing. Also, you never know what will happen to you, your company, or your industry. Being prepared is always better than being caught off guard.
A Lifetime of Success
Planning your career is not something that happens once. While it’s important to pick a great major in college, once you graduate the real work begins. As long as you spend a small amount of time assessing your goals and situation each year you will be able to adapt to changes and reach your dreams.
Even if you know what you want to do now, it’s important to keep your contacts close and your resume current. You never know when the industry or your interests will change. But as long as you keep these tips in mind, you will be prepared for anything and everything.