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Why a career plan is a good idea?

Nov 29, 2022

Every now and again, the results from the poll in our monthly newsletter surprises us. One such surprise was last month when we saw the following:

Do you have a career plan? – 22% yes, 78% no

While it is unlikely that people will have an iron-clad, or even written, career plan we would have expected more people to say that they had a ‘plan’. A career for most people will span around 40 years and it will have many twists and turns along the way: planning, as such, is next to impossible, but how important is it to have an overall vision of where you want to go?

We all use GPS nowadays to get us where we want to go, but did you know that once it suggests your route it is constantly reviewing data and is ready to suggest an alternative route at any point in your journey? Back in the day we would pull out our maps frantically looking for alternative routes if we came upon a road closure or tailback, even the ancient mariners and pilgrims who travelled vast distances had the sun and the stars to keep them on track. The question is though, if you don’t know your ultimate destination, how are you going to regroup when faced with roadblocks, surprises and setbacks?

Do you have a destination in mind? This doesn’t have to be anything terribly specific like, “be the CFO of a major multi-national” or “Secretary General of a Govt Department”. Perhaps your thoughts might be more along the lines of;

  • People leadership
  • Subject matter expert
  • Long career serving people
  • Mix of travel and career
  • Parenthood at the centre of a successful career

What are some of the key considerations when planning a career path?

Education

Will you want or need to continue your education to help propel you along the career path you have in mind? What qualifications do you think you will need (diploma, degree, masters, MBA etc.) and at what points should you pursue it?  

Training

It is always worth understanding what training opportunities are available at your workplace. Are there courses available that could help you progress in your career or start you on a new direction. Training can be very practical, like coding, systems, languages, first aid etc. or more generic/softer skills like leadership, negotiation skills or active listening. Ask every year about what training is available that could help you progress, or open new doors for you.

Coaching & Mentoring

Nobody can get everything they want on their own. We all need support, guidance, training, direction and supervision. Give thought at every point in your career as to who could add value along the way. A mentor can add great value by taking an outsider’s view and offering guidance based on their own experience. Guidance should also be sought tactically on specific issues, never be afraid to ask for help!  

Understanding your motivation

It’s amazing how many people you can speak to who have been working for 20 years or more and when you ask them how they ended up where they are the answer is “I kind of fell into it”. Forging a rewarding career is a lot easier when you understand what motivates you. Money, position, respect, giving back? It is important to note here that what defines a ‘rewarding career’ will differ for everyone.

Family

Do your nearest and dearest know what you are hoping to achieve or why you do what you do? Having your family’s support can be vital, especially when the unexpected occurs and their practical help is needed. 

Flexibility

There is a saying in the military that every plan works perfectly until you encounter the enemy. Nothing in life is going to work out exactly as you plan it. Here’s a short list of things that could get in the way of a great plan!

  • Births, deaths and marriage(s)
  • Redundancy
  • Travel
  • Illness
  • Changes of heart
  • Lack of expected success
  • Technology

Conclusion

In short, there is a virtually limitless list of things that could occur which can shift you from your planned path. But that’s ok! If you have a plan and you want to stick to it, you can immediately start figuring out how to rebuild and find a new route to where you are heading. If you think it is time for a change then you can take stock and come up with a new plan commensurate with your new ideals and motivation. In other words, make change part of your plan.

If you have got this far in life without any idea of how you got here, it’s not too late to sit down and figure out what you want out of life and start working out your roadmap. If you are either struggling along your planned path or coasting along it, don’t be afraid to review and take stock, and expect the unexpected. But have a plan or at least the outline of one as it will change and that’s a good thing. Every experience is something you can learn from!



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