What is a Career Plan and Why You Need One

Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or you’ve been employed for years, career planning is something you can benefit from at any age and any stage of your working life. The fact that recent research has revealed that the average working age person will change his or her career – not just his or her job, but career – numerous times over the years (up to seven times!), career planning is something that everyone should do on a yearly basis. Why? Well, because across all industries, the workplace is constantly changing, and that means that in order to be successful, you really need to have a plan that will help you better manage your career. Employers are always looking to attract, employ, and keep highly skilled workers who will prove to be invaluable to their company. 

A well-devised, up-to-date career plan will help you determine what type of work you are interested in, as well as how and where you would like to perform that work. If you’ve never heard of career planning before, keep on reading to find out more information about this powerful tool and how you can put it to use to maximize your success. 

Career Planning Explained

In order to develop and make use of a career plan, you first need to understand what a career plan is in the first place. In short, a career plan can be defined as the process of making decisions that relate to what you would like to do for your career and how you will accomplish that goal. It’s not a one-time thing; rather, career planning is an activity that should be done on a regular basis. In other words, it’s an ongoing process; one that you should revisit at least once a year, particularly when you – or when the world – have undergone some type of change. Examples of changes may include your ideals, interests, or goals have shifted, or the workplace or industries that you are interested in working in have experienced a transformation. 

Just like every person is different, so, too, is career planning; in other words, the way in which career planning is done and the purposes it is used for will vary from person to person. With that said, however, considering your unique qualities, skills, interests, and values is a great place to start. These traits, if you will, are the ideal foundation for a well-executed career plan, and will allow you to begin the process of exploring what kind of industries, positions, and roles will best align with your objectives. There are a variety of tools that can be used to create an effective career plan. Examples of these tools may include things like assessments, professional coaching, occupational training, and educational programs. 

At What Age Should You Plan Your Career? 

There is no right or wrong age to start planning out your career; however, the ideal time would be right when you are about to or have just graduated from high school. Why is this the ideal time? Because after high school, the average person either enters the workforce, attends a trade school, or goes off to college or university, and a career plan can help you decide which path you would like to take.

Career planning can also be beneficial to professionals who have been in the workforce for a while. Taking the time to develop a career plan provides you with the opportunity to reflect on your career, thus far; determine what you’ve been happy with, what challenges you have faced, what your goals and ideals are, and whether or not changing your career path would provide you with a better opportunity to achieve your objectives. 

Regardless of your age or how long you’ve been working, taking the time to invest in developing a career plan is always a wise idea. This plan isn’t set in stone, but rather, it’s meant to be malleable; it should be flexible so that you can make changes and adjustments as you learn more about the field you’re working in – and about yourself. 

How to Start Career Planning

When you first sit down to develop a career plan, there are four key areas that you should seriously take into consideration: Your interests, your skills, your values, and your preferences. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas and why they’re important. 

  • Your interests. Of course, your interests refer to the things that you are interested in; the things that you are most passionate about. What are the things that you would like spending your time doing and learning more about, even if you weren’t paid to do them. When trying to determine what your interests are, consider your hobbies, what kind of books you’re interested in reading, what you enjoy talking about, and even the apps you use. Do you see a theme that connects these things? Those are your interests. 
  • Your skills. Your skills refer to the things that you excel at doing; your talents or things that you are well-versed in as a result of studying, researching, and practicing. Your skills can be described as the traits that you rely on when you want to or have to get something done. Do note that it might take some creativity to determine where and how you can turn the things that you’re interested in and your skills into something you could do as a career. For instance, if you’re a creative and well-organized person, a career as a party planner, a graphic designer, or a website developer are all possible careers that may be suitable for you. To pinpoint your skills, think about the things that you do well; things where you really shine and that something that you do for free that others may get paid for doing. 
  • Your values. After you’ve pinpointed your interests and skills, the next thing you’ll want to consider is your values. Values can be defined as the ways in which you would like to make a difference in the world; how you use your talents for good. For instance, if you’re passionate about standing up for others and you’d like to be a lawyer, considering your values will help you determine what area of law you should go into; for instance, you could be a public defender, a prosecutor, or a general counsel, and you could work in environmental law or criminal justice. When you’re trying to pinpoint your values, think about the things that you are really passionate about, and things that evoke an emotional response. 

Your preferences. Lastly, you’ll want to consider your preferences. To do this, picture what your dream day at work would be like. Does it involve commuting by car, train, bike, or foot, or does it include walking into your home office? Would you rather work in a metropolitan environment, in a rural location, or while you’re overlooking the turquoise blue waters and hearing the ocean waves crashing at the shore? Are you busy all day, or do you have lots of downtime to spend tending to other responsibilities and things that you’re interested in? Do you want to earn a sizable income, or do you want to earn just enough to enjoy a happy and healthy life? By considering your preferences, you will have an easier time deciding which career path will be best suited for your particular needs, and that will allow you to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

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