Whether you’re still in the glory days of your working life or a well-seasoned professional, formulating a career plan is a worthwhile exercise which can be carried out at any stage of your careers development. Your career plan is a living, fluid thing that can be modified as time progresses and as you grow on both personal and professional levels. Life’s unpredictability ensures that nothing is set in stone so don’t feel as though having a career plan will encroach on your autonomy to change directions, if that is what you need to do.

At their very essence, plans are all about helping you to focus so that you can achieve your goals within a set time-frame. Envision where you want to be professionally in the next, for example, five years and set quarterly milestones to help guide you. Achieving milestones will give you a sense of accomplishment and will make you feel like you’re well on the way to reaching your final objectives.

Get up close and personal with yourself. Be honest about your likes and dislikes and your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you scan for the right career moves and assist you in applying for jobs that really suit your personality, not just what you’ve outlined in your career plan. At this stage, consider factors such as salary expectations, working hours and if you are willing to relocate for your dream job if necessary.

Identify and make a list of your current skills. Take note of what skills you’ll need in order to reach the goals outlined in your plan. Perhaps you’ll need to learn a new language, brush up your computer skills or attend a specialised training programme.

Scour the market for courses that will help you obtain this knowledge. Alternatively, explore the possibilities of formalised on-the-job training and/or informal learning from peers and mentors at your current workplace. Whilst focusing on your long-term career plan, it’s important that you remain in the present moment. Immerse yourself fully in your present role, learn as much as you can from it and use it as a springboard to reach the goals you’ve highlighted in your career plan.

Don’t forget about the importance of networking with experienced professionals in your chosen field. They were once newbies too and they’re sure to offer you some sound advice that can help you accelerate the achievement of your career plan’s ambitions.

Once your career plan is in an easy-to-read format that you’re comfortable with, you’ll feel ready to embark on the tasks you’ve identified. Keep your plan updated! Tick off tasks that you’ve achieved and keep note of useful contacts you’ve made and where you’ve met them. You can also add/alter steps as you progress and if you find it difficult to stay motivated, you can reward yourself after each accomplishment. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t feel pressured to complete your plan within strict deadlines. Allow yourself the freedom to explore new avenues and take time to rest and recharge as you make your way to your destination.

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