The average person changes jobs (often careers) multiple times over his or her lifetime! Often because they have never sat down and taken the time to map out a career plan for themselves or really assess what it is they want from their career. Some would ask does it make a difference. The answer is yes and here is why?
What is the difference in a Job and a Career? A job is a series of tasks concerned with making a living. A career is about having a more long term plan that allows the progressive growth of a person while at the same time making a life.
It is never too late to draw up a career plan. It’s also something that should be revisited on a regular basis to help keep you focused. It is not a task that should be put off or done half heartily, it should be liberating and fulfilling, mapping out the direction you want to take your career and the steps that you need to take to make your goals a reality.
Knowing yourself is the first step in the process. In order to do this you need to be prepared to do some soul searching and reflection. I don’t mean dwell on the past, but to review and reflect by mapping your path to date examining your past roles and your levels of satisfaction in each of the previous employments. You need to review and reflect on the reasons for why the path looks as it does today. There are four key questions you must ask at this stage.
1). Are you happy with how the path looks?
2).Could you have done anything better?
3).What might you have done differently?
4).What can you do differently in the future?
You need to reflect on your likes and dislikes, needs and wants, not just in relation to your job but your life. The simplest approach to starting this process is too draw up a simple two column list, likes and dislikes. Use the list to examine current job satisfaction or future career plans against these lists. If you find that for the most part job activities fall into the like list and the balance between work and home life are what you want then you are well on your way to achieving your targets.
However, if you find they fall mostly in to the dislike column, then it is time to begin the process to search for a new job or career. It is really important to know what really drives you as an individual. What motivates you in your job or career? What exactly is your vision for your ideal career? Examine your hobbies and interests too, these are important for life balance. In some cases, with careful planning, hobbies can transform into careers. Like the old saying goes “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”.
Explore your options. Ask yourself are you currently working in the right industry but perhaps just with the wrong company. If this is the case all you require is a job change. If you are not happy working in the industry, then it is a career change you need.
Examine your skill set. Look beyond your current job or career. Don’t focus so much on job titles held down through the years but more on the transferrable skills that you have developed in each of these roles. By only examining job titles, particularly if you have a long history in one specific sector you are narrowing the scope of your search and this will prevent you from looking outside your current sector. Focus on the transferable skills. This will allow you to look at a wide range of jobs, careers and industry sectors for which you can apply yourself.
Research the jobs and career trends in other industry sectors, particularly in the areas that you are interested. It is critical that you are aware of new industry sectors or those with expected growth. This will have an impact on your decision making process. Remember knowledge is power and it will help you strengthen your position, aligning your skills and identifying skills that may need further development.
Set achievable SMART Goals. Both short (in the coming year) and long term goals (beyond a year) goals should be set. For example, when examining your skills set, you may have realised that you need to undertake a short course or a more long term approach to gain a particular qualification. Setting goals breaks down the tasks into small manageable chunks which can make the process less daunting. Remember make sure you set SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound) to help you achieve success. This is a process that will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure you are focused and also provides great satisfaction as you start to tick each goal completed, moving you one step closer to your overall targets. During goal setting stage, highlight any potential barriers, look for creative solutions to overcome the barriers and don’t use them as excuses not to move your career forward.
Making Decisions. This process will be a lot easier to tackle once you make the effort of reviewing and reflecting on your current status, researching your options and setting your goals. You will find it a lot easier to take that leap because you are very well informed and will feel much more confident in your approach. You will be ready to Move On.
Moving On may take some time, however if you review and reflect and treat your career plan as a living document, reviewing and updating as you reach each goal, you will gain real satisfaction knowing that you are well on your way to personal fulfilment on the career path that you want for yourself., creating the life you want to experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tara McAssey is an Employment Officer and Recruitment Consultant with Swilly Group. She has been offering career planning advice for many years. She has supported many employers with candidate searches and has a wide network of employer contacts across a number of industry sectors.