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Career Planning: It Can’t Do Everything for You but It Helps!

In the past I’ve commented on the value of having a short- and long-term career management plan. Have you created your plan yet? If not, what’s stopping you.

Your hesitation could come from one of the following reasons:

  1. You don’t like planning–find it too restrictive and limiting to your creativity–so you don’t do it.
  2. You believe in fate versus planning and think career success will happen somehow without a plan.
  3. You have no real clue how to put together a solid, workable plan and execute it.

Career Planning–No Deadline, No Goal

Those of you who conclude that reason #1 or #2 fits your situation might consider this: If you don’t have a defined target with a deadline (or deadlines) attached to it, what you have is a dream, not a goal.

Does this mean you have to have every step of your plan detailed exhaustively? Not at all. However, you do need to have the critical steps identified and a target completion date assigned to each of them. Otherwise, you’re looking at “pie in the sky” possibilities, not an achievable outcome.

Executable Career Plans

To be executable, your career plan needs to be real-world-based. That is, it must take into account your current situation, your hoped-for goal, and what has to be accomplished to reach that goal.

So your plan starts with what is, not what you wish it were. If you’re a line cook now and want to be a master chef down the road, that’s a potentially realistic goal. Take a close look at the actions you would need to implement to achieve that level and how long each step should take. Obvious categories would include education and experience; certification might also give you a leg up on your competition.

Does your career plan have dozens of steps? Then you might have fallen into the trap of including too much detail. “Keep it simple” is good advice to remember. Cover the essentials and leave the embellishments for later.

In some cases, you might be able to save time by overlapping a few steps in your career plan. For example, if you can engage in community involvement activities in a way that increases your visibility while you’re working full-time, you could develop influential connections related to your career goal before you launch an official job search.

Basic Career Planning Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Where do I want to go? (What do I want to “be” next?)
  • What do I need to do to get there?
  • How long should it take me?
  • What does my contingency plan look like? (Because you know not all first-time plans succeed.)
  • How committed am I? (A weak commitment level probably means weak potential for success.)

Now create your career plan, refine it as necessary, and put it into ACTION! Remember this quote by William Johnsen: If it is to be, it is up to me!”