Do you have goals? I'm sure you do. Most people do, and if you're on this blog reading up all of our career advice you must have goals. The problem with goals is they're hard work to achieve, and often life can get in the way and mess with your plan. Wait, you don't have a plan?
Stop Right There!
You must, and I mean MUST, have a plan to get ahead and reach your goals. How else will you know what to do to reach said goals? How will you keep yourself accountable? How will you keep yourself motivated? Think about your personal goals, such as weight loss. What's your plan to lose 10 pounds? Diet and exercise. Okay, that's a start of a great plan. Serious weight loss goal-attainers will have a meal plan, an exercise schedule, a buddy system for support, and weigh themselves regularly. So are you just as serious about your career goals?
You Must Have A Career Plan
Why is a career plan so important? The norm is to take the job that pays the bills and be grateful. There are ambitious people out there that actually love their jobs. In fact, their jobs are more like a lifestyle which no longer makes it just a job. It's a career. It's a means to not only pay the bills but to feel appreciated for your contributions and have a sense of worth. Best of all, a career is not out of reach.
You must have a career plan, or you will remain stagnant in that job you're just grateful for. Have you ever created a career plan? If not, we'll walk you through it. There are a few things you need to think about first.
Yes, Think About It
Maybe you don't know what you want to accomplish 5-10 years from now. Now is the time to start thinking about it! What do you enjoy doing? Many people discover they can make a profitable career out of doing what they love most and are passionate about.
What are your priorities? If being a stay-at-home parent is the goal, that should shape how your career plan looks. Making choices that support making more money now so you can stay home later or making choices that move you closer to working from home are great ways to get closer to your goals.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? When you're not passionate about something, just doing something you do well can make all the difference in the world in a career. Avoid making choices that focus on your weaknesses unless you're finding ways to improve in these areas.
What do you want out of a dream job? Maybe you want to work independently and not be bothered, or maybe you want to be the boss and lead a successful team. Knowing what you want to get out of a job apart from salary will shape your career plan too.
What Do You Have Going For You Today?
Do a quick skills analysis. Based on your experiences and qualifications, what can you do well? Selling. Math. Customer Service (I have deep respect for you!). Managing Tasks. Whatever it is, play to your strengths. Think back on what you accomplished. Can't think of anything? Well, did you solve someone's problem? Did you contribute to something that resulted in a positive result? There you go.
Often what you have going for you today may accidentally remind you of what you don't have going for you (sorry about that!). That doesn't mean you keep your head down and hope no one notices. Get proactive and find ways to improve on those weaknesses. Take online courses (or watch YouTube tutorials). Read more. Look for opportunities to practice. If you struggle with communication skills, start networking. It'll force you to get better.
Now that you have a good idea of what you want and what you have going for you, it's time to do a little research on which direction to take. Look into industries you find interesting. Into fashion? Don't limit yourself to just retail, but look into different opportunities in design or merchandising. Fascinated with law? If law school is out of reach right now, you can start as a receptionist or legal assistant with little experience and learn as you go until you can afford (or are offered employee assistance...) additional schooling. Look into all your options for industries, roles, and which skills you'll need to develop to get where you want to go.
Create Your Roadmap
Once you have a destination in mind, you'll need to map out how to get there. This is where a 5-Year (or more) Career Plan can come in handy. Set milestones and identify the steps you need to take in order to meet your goals. Here's an example: You want to be a retail business owner in five years. Your milestones are to develop a product that people will buy in one year, launch a successful online store that you can operate from home in two years, and lease a storefront and hire a few employees in five years.
To reach your first milestone, you may need to go back to school to take courses in design for an original product or you may need to network with ideal designers who can create your products for you. For your second milestone, you'll need to create a website and get your name out there with some marketing tactics like social media, direct mail, or even radio advertising. Now your store is fully operational. To reach that final milestone, you may need to find an investor or get a business loan in addition to developing vendor relationships, learning how to be a manager (You may need to take another class for this!), and recruiting help to take care of your customers and your storefront.
With each milestone, which is a goal in itself, you need to set a deadline. Sometimes it's even better to set a deadline for each step to take within each milestone. The more detailed your plan is, the easier it will be to keep yourself accountable.
Write It Down & Review It Frequently
Now that you have a 5-Year Career Plan, write it down. Put it somewhere visible like taped to the bathroom mirror or saved as a screensaver for your smartphone. Keep it visible to keep you accountable. Be proactive in taking each step you think you need to take to reach each milestone and accomplish your goal. Also, don't be afraid to make changes as necessary. Changes may even help to speed up the process and help you reach your goal sooner.
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