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How to Write a Career Plan

Most people tend to think about their careers in a vague and airy-fairy kind of way. They think they know where they want to end up, and they have a pretty good idea of how to get there, but that’s usually it.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it’s extremely limiting. Why? Because you are not properly considering all the qualities you possess, everything you have learned, all the skills you have developed and all the experience you have built up. It’s limiting because if you don’t have a specific set of goals, you’re going to languish. It’s too easy to get comfortable in one role, or with one company, or in one industry. It’s too easy to downgrade your dreams and settle for something that doesn’t light you up and get you excited.

A career is more than just a job. A career is your life’s work. Do you have any idea how many hours you will spend at work? Around one third of your entire life will be spent at work. So, why waste those years by not investing the time and effort into creating a proper plan? Something that will describe, in detail, how you can fulfill your potential in your chosen career.

Research, planning and goals are key. Do you have a current plan? Is it just in your head or do you have one written down? Writing it down is crucial. How much stock would you put in a marketing department with a budget but no written marketing plan? Or a business that’s about to launch with no written business plan?

Writing a career plan forces you to get serious about yourself, your career, and ultimately, your life. Your career is a big part of your lifestyle. So, why not actually take the time and invest the effort into creating a well-researched, deeply thought out, awesome and inspiring plan? Something that will not only clarify your vision, but give you clear directives on what you need to be achieving from now, to get there?

Here is how to create the ultimate career plan:

1. Perform a self-assessment

This is an important step that will help you develop a crystal clear picture of where you are at now and where you can go. Invest some time in this. Sit down, brainstorm and make lists. On what exactly? Well, think of it like a complete overview of yourself. Get down all of your knowledge and education. What specific areas are you knowledgeable in? What areas really interest you? What are you really curious about? What could you spend days reading about? Also make lists of all of your skills and abilities, as well as your experience. Once you have everything down this should give you a good overview of who you are now, where you could go, and what you have to offer in your chosen career.

2. Pick a career

If you don’t already know exactly what you want to do, use the last exercise to choose something that you want to work towards. Do yourself a favour and make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. If you need inspiration, check out our post on How to find a corporate job you love (ADD LINK).It should be something that gets you excited and inspired.

3. Find out what’s required

Once you’ve chosen a career, it’s time to start researching! You want to know everything that would be required of you to reach your desired level in this career. That could include qualifications, work experience, personal attributes, skills and abilities. There are plenty of websites that cover different industries and careers (including the one you’re on right now). Check out our career descriptions for tips. Another great idea is to read books on the career that you want. Or why not look up famous people in your industry and research their career path? How did they get to where they are now? All of this information can go under a section called ‘Career requirements’ on your plan.

4. Draft an outline of your career plan

Now you’ve got a lot of the content, you can start drafting your actual career plan document. It can be as long or as short as you like, as long as it covers everything that’s important to you. You should include a few main sections, including: Personal Snapshot (what you did in Step 1), Chosen Career (which you worked out in Step 2), Career Requirements (which was Step 3, and then a section on Goals. Let’s get into goals.

5. Set goals working backwards

This is a great way to set goals that are both ambitious and achievable. First, start by working out what you want to have achieved by retirement. Write it down, in detail. Now, work out what you will need to have achieved 10 years from now to be on track towards that goal. Then figure out what goals you would need to hit in the next 5 years to be on track, and then 2 years.

We recommend writing a separate 1 Year Plan that details the goals you would need to achieve over the next year to be on track for your long term goals. Break it down further into months. What you want to end up with is a clear and actionable plan that you can look at and measure against as often as possible. Keep the goals specific, measurable and achievable! Don’t forget to add areas of your personal life too. It all ads up to the lifestyle you want to have. Then, it’s time to start taking action to reach those goals. Tick them off as you go.

Lastly, remember that life is never perfect and often messy. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t meet some of your goals or if stuff gets in the way and you have to reassess your plan. In fact, expect to to reassess it often. If something is not inspiring you, reflect and shake things up. You can even do the whole process again, especially if you’re having one of those “what am I doing with my life”? moments. Don’t settle, keep going until you’re on your way to reaching your full potential in a career that excites you.