For a lot of people, having a career path that is clearly defined is really important. This career plan helps them to evaluate where they are against their career goals and decide when and where to take their next job. For others, it can be a different story. They may be at the end of their career and looking for something new. Alternatively, they may be mid-way through but looking for a new challenge or change of direction. Regardless of the reasons for pursuing a new career there are a number of steps that you can take to define a career plan and give yourself the best chance of achieving your career goals.
The Benefits of Career Planning
One of the key activities that you will need to complete before you start looking for jobs is to sit and define a career plan. A career plan is made up of different elements and you can choose to add or subtract any that you don’t think are useful or relevant to what you are hoping to achieve. Some of the elements that you might find useful to include in your career plan might be:
- Where you are now and how you got there
- Where you want to be in 12 months time
- Where you want to be in 3 years time
- The aspects of your job that you enjoy
- The aspects of your job that you don’t enjoy
- Your ideal work-life balance
These initial ideas are just starting points and you may want to elaborate beyond this as you get further into your career plan. One of the key parts of planning is setting objectives. That’s because objectives mean you can hold yourself to account and you have something to measure your activity against. They will also help to keep you motivated through your journey. If you don’t give yourself a destination to reach, how will you know when you have got there?
Setting a Clear Direction
Once you have answered the first few basic questions in your plan, you can start to develop it further. This will probably mean looking more specifically at the different career types that you would be interested in pursuing. Again, asking some basic questions to get you going is a good idea here as it will help you to set a clear direction for the next stage of your research.
- What industry do you want to work in?
- What size of business would you like to work in?
- What level of seniority is best suited to your experience?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What type of business would you like to work for?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start looking around for different job adverts. If you know the job title that you would ideally be looking to move into then this will give you a good steer on salary, size of business and sometimes even the industry or sector that you could work in. Giving yourself a clear direction of travel and taking a focused approach will give you more time to focus on the careers you are most interested in.
Meeting the Requirements
You may discover that when looking at the job adverts that there are specific industry requirements like qualifications or experience. These should not put you off and don’t see them as a barrier. If you are dedicated to following your career plan then these are merely steps that you need to take to achieve your goal. You can include these in your plan and see how they fit into your 12 month and 3-year objectives. In some cases, you may need to re-adjust these, but it’s better to know that now and be prepared for it.
If you are looking to move into a role at manager level or higher, it’s highly likely that you are going to need experience at this level. This might be as simple as managing a team, or it could be managing the different processes within a business. Either way a managerial role means you will have added responsibility so having relevant experience is crucial.
With regards to qualifications, you may find that some jobs require you to have a degree in a certain subject that is relevant to the field of work. Again, this may be more applicable to higher-level positions, but if you do require a qualification you can gain these online. You can study a lot of subjects, including ms statistics online. Online programmes such as this are designed so you can still work full time which might be something you can negotiate with a potential employer if you get offered the job.
Choosing the Right Place
Sometimes a big career move might mean actually needing to move to a new town or city for a job. If you are a specialist in a certain field like science then it may be that the jobs you are looking for only come up in areas that have funding for research like Universities. If you have a family then it could have a big impact on them too. You may need to find new schools, buy a new house or your spouse may need to find a new job wherever you choose to move to.
Despite this, not all career moves require moving to a new town or city. Some don’t even require moving to a new business. If you work for a large organisation, then they may have opportunities in house that would provide you with the change you are looking for. If you have been at the company for some time, they may even be willing to give you a trial in a different department or pay for you to be trained to work in a different department.
Finally, it may be that your organisation has multiple locations all over the country and that you have identified that you would like a new challenge in a different town or city. If your current employer has multiple locations that are probably used to people transferring between them, it is worth finding out if this is possible before you look for a different position outside the company.
Negotiating a Salary
As part of your overall career plan, you should have identified the salary range that you need to be earning or would like to be earning and the timescale for achieving this. If you think that taking on a new career will mean starting at the bottom and working your way up then you should be prepared to start on a lower salary. Having a good overview of your personal finances will help you to determine if this is a realistic time for you to make a move.
It can also be surprising how similar jobs in different industries can vary so much in the salaries they offer. It’s likely that the skill sets will be different and industry knowledge plays a large part, but you may find that staying in the same field of work but moving to a different industry could have a positive impact on your salary. One example might be working in sales and moving from selling low ticket items to high ticket items like cars or houses.
Checking the factors that might influence the salary that you are likely to be paid can also be a good point to include in your plan. You may have identified already that having a degree is a must, but this can also be used as leverage for salary negotiations. You may also be able to negotiate other perks to help boost your salary like free gym membership or a company car.
Making the Move
It can often be the case that building a career plan and defining your goals is the easy part. Actually trying to find a job that fits the requirements you have and that will enable you to achieve the objectives you have set out can be tricky. In some cases, it can be useful to sign up with recruitment agencies that work in your chosen field. They usually have lots of contacts and job openings that you may be able to interview for right away.
Embarking on a new career can be a stressful and scary experience but if it helps you to achieve what you want in your personal and professional life then it is definitely worth pursuing. One idea to help you manage the process might be to find a mentor. A mentor will help to guide you through your options and will most likely have been in a similar situation to the one you find yourself in now.
Regardless of the reasons you might be choosing a new career path, planning it out and setting objectives will ensure that you stick to a clear path. Sometimes you may need to readjust your goals but knowing what they are in the first place will allow you to stay motivated and amend your plan accordingly.
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Founder Dinis Guarda
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