How To Create A Career Plan

As someone already qualified in your professional field or working towards getting professionally qualified, you are more than likely to be pretty ambitious.  Yet I am sure like me there are plenty of people you have come across who had great aspirations but never achieved anything like their potential.

It is fair to say that at different times in our life our career aspirations are different.  This is perfectly normal and to be expected.  In the early years in our professional field money has more significance as you try to get established and build some security.

Yet do you have a career plan?  If not don’t be embarrassed.  You are definitely in the majority rather than the minority in my experience. career-planning-general-staff

So why don’t people have career plans?  In truth there are a whole host of reasons, including:

They don’t know how to tackle career planning.  Chances are no one has ever shown them how to get started and the steps that they need to follow.

They worry about having a career plan.  People in professions are in my experience very driven individuals.  They thrive on achievement.  With something like career planning there are a lot of factors outside of the individual’s control.  This creates a bigger risk of failure and achievers find failing tough.

They get stuck on doing the current job which they might enjoy a lot but find it hard to look longer term or even medium term.

It takes time, effort and energy.  Creating a career plan is not a 5 minute job.  It involves a lot of reflection, questioning, consideration and effort.  When you are busy in the current role it can be really tough to get into the right frame of mind.

They don’t want to come across as pushy.  If you think about a typical appraisal at work, chances are very little time is spent on your career aspirations and in some cases they might not even be on the agenda.  If you turn up and start talking about career plans others might make judgements, fairly or unfairly about you.

So what are the benefits of career plans anyway?

The biggest benefit in my view is that they help you get clarity.  It might be easy to say that you want to go to Director level in an organisation because you think that is what current and potential employers want to hear.  On the other hand it might not be what you want.

They help you to make choices.  Opportunities will present themselves at different points in your career.  Some will be right to pursue, while others won’t.  Your career plan helps you make an informed choice about what opportunities to pursue and what opportunities not to pursue.

They help you plan your professional development.  There is no shortage of development that you could be doing but there will be a shortage on the amount of time and money that can be invested.  You therefore want every investment of time and money to help you move forward to where you want to get to next.

They help you to break things down.  You might well have your big aspiration or goal.  In reality you will more than likely achieve that big aspiration or goal over the longer term.  You can take the end point, map back wards all the steps you will need to make and set these as mini milestones.

They keep you motivated.   This is vitally important because the big outcome will be some way in the future.  Achieving one of the mini steps fires you up and keeps you motivated.

So how do you create a career plan?

The first phase is all about getting to know you.  At this point you will be considering what you want from your career and what’s important to you.  You should also be finding out about your best skills, attributes and qualities.  You should get clear on what you will and won’t do to achieve your career goals.

Next you need to make some decisions and put a marker in the ground.  This will include deciding how far you are going in your career.

It is also vital to research.  Most professions, rightly or wrongly have some typical stages you will have to go through to get to more senior levels.  At each stage there will be specific skill, qualities, experience and knowledge required.  You need to know what’s required at each stage so that you can get ready ahead of time.

The next step is to create your plan.  In the plan you need to be specific about what you are going to do and when you are going to do it by.  What I have noticed is that when you set specific actions with specific time scales things get down.

And of course keep track of progress and adjust as necessary.  You might set out with the best of intentions and things don’t always go quite as you expect.  See your career plan as a live document rather than task and finish.  Keep updating as new information and insights are gained.

Duncan Brodie helps accountants achieve more career success.  He invites you to sign up for his free report, The 7 Biggest Barriers To A Successful Career In Accountancy

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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