Many of us view financial goals as synonymous to life goals. Aspirations such as retiring at 60 or buying our first home are typically viewed as a dollar amount to save for. However, in order to reach these goals, you need a career plan that is aligned and can support the journey. Creating a career plan and reviewing it regularly will ensure that you expend your efforts and resources in a job that ultimately gives you the life you desire.
Why managing your career is important
Our jobs also help us unlock the financial freedom to pursue our other hobbies and interests in our lives. Reflecting on your career plan regularly will ensure that you are making the career moves that do not significantly compromise your ability to enjoy your interests. It will also allow you to ensure there is alignment between your career trajectory and your life goals.
For example, your target career may not provide the means for the type of retirement that you want. Building a career plan can allow you to envision where other trade offs that can be made so that you can attain both. For example, is there an opportunity to work in a different industry in a similar role that may be provide more compensation so that you can start saving earlier for retirement.
Regular review will also allow you to adjust to meet your evolving needs and or changes in the market.
How to build a career plan
Building a career plan will provide clarity on how to land your target career. Some professions have defined paths that you can follow e.g. chartered public accountants or lawyers. For others, the paths are less obvious. For these roles, you will need to do some research. There are many resources online that focus on careers. You can also reach out to contacts in your network who may work in your target industry and or job to learn more about their journey.
- Identify your target career – your target career is the role that you believe you will happiest in and supports your overarching life goal. Questions to think about when brainstorming your target career include:
- What kind of work do you enjoy doing most?
- Where do you feel your strengths are?
- What roles interest you the most?
- What industries interest you the most?
- Does this role support your other goals? If not, what will you need to do before to fulfill your other goals?
Another way to brainstorm your target career is to chat with old coworkers. Ask them what role and industry they think you would excel at.
2. Identify the job that is one below your target career
This step is about working backwards to understand what are the different roles that lead to your target career. There may be more than one path to your target career. Map out as many as possible. By doing this, you can evaluate where you are currently, and which path would make the most sense for getting to your target career.
3. Itemize the qualifications and skills needed for each of the roles
Once you’ve picked the path that makes the most sense, identify the qualification and skills for each role. You can do this by searching open job postings for the roles.
4. Identify which qualifications and skills you need to learn
Make a plan to learn or obtain the necessary skills to support your path to your target career. This may include have significant investment in resources and time, such as going back to school for another degree.
5. Make a list of your network in roles on your path to and who are in your target career
Set up quick coffee chats with colleagues in your network who are currently in these roles. Learn from their stories and experiences. This can also open the door to the right opportunities while gaining great advice.
Once you’ve built your career plan, the next step is to match this plan against your overarching life goals. There may be certain things that you need to adjust in order to do both. For example, if your target career requires more education, it may significantly impact your financial goals.
General goal setting tips
Strong goal setting habits is the cornerstone of achieving your dreams. Breaking down your career plan and your life goals into short-term goals makes the overall plan more manageable.
Start by breaking down your overarching goals, for both your life and target career, into 2 year, 5 year, and 10 year milestones. Identify where you want to be at each of these milestones. Facets to identify include career, financial, education, family, artistic, attitude, physical, and leisure. Also prioritize which facet will be most important to you.
From here, take a facet and tackle the short term to do. For example, if your 2 year milestone for your career is to be promoted to a manager role, then break down in the next one-month, six-month, and year what goals you will need to achieve in order to reach your 2 year milestone.
The goals that you set should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Building on our previous example, to be promoted you may need to take on work for special projects. A SMART goal to match this would be to create two new internal leadership and mentorship development initiatives within the next year.
The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on goal setting and offers a free preview.
Dos and Don’ts of managing your career
Schedule time to review your career – make an appointment with yourself to build and review your career plan. Having dedicated and uninterrupted time to do this will ensure that your career is getting the attention it needs.
Invest in your network – continually invest in your network. Meet up with old colleagues for coffee or attend meetups to meet new people. Staying connected can open new opportunities.
Stick to your plan rigidly – allow some flexibility in your plan. The way we work and what types of careers that currently exist are continuously changing. Your target career may evolve or may not be as relevant as things change. Additionally, life is known for throwing the occasional curve ball. Keeping an openness will allow you to adapt to view challenges as opportunities rather than hard roadblocks.
Compare yourself to others or your peers – while a little bit of health competition is always good, getting wrapped up in where others are is not the right focus.