How to Develop A Career Plan
Many people are considering their careers just now, and while some have made the leap to follow their dreams, many people are unsure of what they want to do. Perhaps they've lost the joy in their vocation but are making good money, others feel overwhelmed with the options, and a lot of people don't know where to start when they don't see the typical career paths laid out by their employers as attractive options. This is a quick guide on how to work out where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. The first step is undertaking an honest appraisal of your skills, experience and strengths and weaknesses. After that, I'll share some tips on working out where you want to go and how to get there.
Consider Your Current Reality
The first step in planning towards a goal is looking at where you are now. When looking at your current situation, it's extremely important to take stock of your reality. It may be difficult to take an unbiased view of yourself, so I've put together some tips to guide you through the process.
Firstly, auditing yourself is key. People often overlook doing a skills and experience audit on themselves when planning their career overall, but it can be incredibly useful. Without this, you may overlook a vital area of development, and it may take you longer to get where you want to be. Accurately appraising yourself can be challenging, and often people think they are starting far ahead of where they are or completely overlook skills they already possess.
To begin, write down your strengths and weaknesses. Review any appraisals or feedback you have, focusing on the development areas. Ask someone you trust for their candid input to ensure you have not missed anything. People are more honest (and provide more useful constructive feedback) when explicitly permitted to do so. Before they give you feedback, tell them you have checked your ego at the door and that it's vital that they're honest, or you may miss out on some valuable advice.
Additionally, there are a variety of psychometric tests you can use to assist in assessing yourself or getting to know your current skills and personal characteristics better than before.
As you may know (or may have already encountered), psychometric testing is a type of test which is used widely used by companies to measure a candidate's mental capabilities and aptitude - which isn't to say you can't undertake one of these as an individual.
Overall, there are essentially three categories of psychometric tests: aptitude tests, skills tests and personality tests - all of which have a multitude of options to use online, some of which are available for free.
I've compiled some of my favourite free psychometric tests that I've used for you to gain a well-rounded view of your profile. Don't forget to answer as honestly as possible to get the most from this exercise.
Work Out Where You Want To Go
After looking at where you are, the next step is looking to the future and where you want to go. When identifying your aspirations, consider the type of role, salary, location, and time frames involved. Research this type of role online, find job descriptions and adverts, review the LinkedIn profiles of people who do this type of role, and, if possible, speak to people that are already in the role or recruiters in the sector.
Now take a look at your expectations. Are your expectations, including timeframes for achievement and goals, realistic? Setting ambitious goals may help galvanise you, but overly high-reaching aspirations are better broken down into smaller, more attainable goals. Do you know what the role you are aiming for is actually like? Quite a few people like the idea of a job more than the reality. Many don't take time to reflect on whether they'll enjoy a career path or are even suited to it. Therefore, it's essential to understand why you want to do this? A personal sense of purpose for your goal will help motivate you to do the work to get there.
Filling In The Gaps
Once you have set your career goal, it can help to create a 'from and to' statement to help you identify any gaps that you may need to address.
From Software Developer who adds value through technical expertise and follows business directions to a Development Manager who delivers high-quality software through a team.
From a Head of Product who leads the delivery of the product roadmap and contributes to strategy, to a Chief Product Officer who works with the leadership team to set strategic direction.
From a Manager in a large company with deep technical and domain knowledge to the CEO of a start-up where they will lead and be responsible for strategy and delivery of multiple business areas.
Most professional growth comes from on-the-job learning, the rest from social interactions and formal training, courses, and qualifications. Find job descriptions for the role you aspire toward and map out your current skills and experience against what will be required to highlight the gaps. Speak to mentors or people who do this role and ask them for feedback on how you get there. Once you understand what experiences you need, you can focus on putting yourself forward for projects that accelerate your development and add the most value to your CV. As you are doing this, make your CV a working document and keep a list of your achievements.
How To Fill In The Gaps
The aim is to find the fastest way to the job you want, so as you work out what gaps you need to close, try and prioritise these and focus on the essential skills, not just desirable.
To ensure the fastest path to success, according to the 70-20-10 model, 70% of your professional growth will come from the work experiences you have, 20% will come from your interactions with others, and 10% will come from formal education. This can be useful to take into account when charting your course. Remember that you have to work to create experiences and move forward.
Tips for getting the experience and skills you need to hit your goal:
Find a mentor and ask for their advice
Speak to people who do your dream job and ask them for advice
Ask for feedback from your current manager and people who you have previously worked for
Put yourself forward for projects that will prove your competency in the essential areas
Read books, websites and blogs that will develop the required knowledge
Practice your technical skills in your spare time
Ask for extra responsibility
Ask for a transfer to a different department
Apply for international experience
Learn a new language if this is going to help you progress
Complete a course or certification if there are gaps in your knowledge or to strengthen your CV
Move to a company where you can get experience at the right scale or stage e.g. start-up, scale-up, Plc or established business
Volunteer for a charity to get board-level or leadership experience
Express an interest in a promotion before the position becomes available
Seek out opportunities to build a new team, lead a project or become a manager
Show you are versatile by working on different products
Accept opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone
Ask for a different job title if it doesn't reflect what you do and where you want to go
Go to, host or speak at networking events or contribute to the company's thought leadership
Above all, be willing to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Developing your career in your chosen direction, aligned with your sense of purpose, offers many rewards. If you're not sure where to start feel free to use the template below.
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