Chapter 2 - The Individual Career Plan: Chart your professional journey

The Individual Career Plan: Chart your professional journey

Career planning is a continuous process of setting individual professional goals and exploring ways to achieve them through self-evaluation, market research, and continuous learning. It is an important exercise to successfully manage your career. Creating a career plan will help you for future as while doing the same, you outline a vision for professional journey and set goals to capitalize on strengths and address the development needs for the same. The key benefits of creating a career plan are below.

  • Helps to inventory one’s strengths and identify any gaps in their knowledge, skill set, or experience.
  • Helps to identify the short-term and long-term goals that can push one towards action.
  • Provides a visual representation of how to allocate time working on specific goals.
  • Acknowledges milestones achieved along the way, providing a sense of accomplishment and increasing momentum.
  • Documents the development through assessment and reflection.

Here’s how one can efficiently map their career plan aka their professional journey.

1. Set your direction

Sometimes the most basic yet confusing decision of a career depends on one’s goal. Everyone must know where they are going as having a vision can resolve half the hitches. Setting the direction requires you to investigate and discover the right career path for yourself. Investigating your interests is the greatest place to start when analyzing a potential career path. You must have a clear vision about the industry you want to work in, the organization you wish to join, and the position you want to achieve. Before that, you can envision whether you want a boss or you want to be your own boss or where do you see yourself in the next one, three, or five years. The next step is to compare your newly created list to your existing abilities and academic strengths. You need not worry if you're having trouble matching your talents and interests to a specific vocation or employment; your initial research should include a wide range of topics and areas as a career is as much about your interests and skills as it is about your personality.

2. Do your research

The research will help you gather the necessary data for your dream job to be successful. Look for job shadowing opportunities that will give a slight experience of your future career as it takes some effort to learn about the various types of jobs available in various industries. Once you have a basic notion of where you want to go based on the interests and skills, start looking at trends and job postings in those regions utilizing online portals or local websites. Some jobs demand you to have completed extremely specialized degrees and make this a requirement for employment. For specific professions, you may be required to have completed an advanced degree, so knowing this ahead of time when analyzing career alternatives is beneficial. It's also worth remembering that not all degrees or academic credentials are appropriate to only one industry or field of work. They are, in reality, transportable. However, it's a good idea to try to match your degree decision to the general direction you want to go, especially if you're interested in a variety of professions. You need to make sure that you:
  •    Prioritize your goal.
  •    Compare all your options.
  •    Consider other factors beyond personal preferences.
  •    Make a choice and be sure that it is more practical than idealistic.

3.Plan your journey

Having decided which career path to walk on, the next step is to plan out the journey to achieve your desired destination. Planning ensures that the goals and objectives are clearly stated so that they may be used as a guide for selecting what action to take and in which direction.
For planning your corporate journey-
  • Review job descriptions for the positions and fields that you desire.
  • Look for knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics you need for the role.
  • Identify the gaps between what you have and what you need to get these jobs. These could be skill gaps, experience gaps, qualification gaps, etc.
  • Once you have assessed the gap between what you have and what you need to for the shortlisted careers, find different ways of filling the gap.
  • Participate in webinars, training sessions, conferences to gain some relevant experience.
  • Stay updated on standards and trends in the profession you are interested in.

4. Set small goals for yourself

Your career plan should be underpinned by a wider set of goals and ambitions. These should be in keeping with your skills, attributes, and personality as they are achievable that way. To keep yourself motivated and on track, be sure to set small, attainable goals that keep you moving towards the big goal. Make a list of the key things that you hope to achieve within a given time frame. Some of the small goals you can set for yourself are:
  • Achieving an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification with ample grades.
  • Undertaking internships or work experience.
  • Skills and competencies, you want to have developed.
  • Plan out an ideal resume that synchronizes with your goal and work to achieve it.

5. Expand your knowledge & skills

Gaining the skills and knowledge you need to progress in your career is a tricky part. Read books, take online courses, and use whatever resources you have available to expand your skillset. You can also enhance your skills by taking classes, learning from the people around you, gaining new talents, and improving upon existing ones. Some of the tips to speed up the process are:
  • Overcome your fears
  • Read
  • Learn something new
  • Ask for feedback
  • Observe others
  • Get a mentor

6. Interview experts (inside and outside your field)

Everyone has a story behind the success s/he has achieved. Interviewing professionals in the field you wish to move into can help in knowing their experiences and mistakes better. It also allows you to clear many not-so-common and domain-specific doubts through one-on-one interaction with the experts which might not be possible in the case of recorded or written interviews. Through interviews with geniuses, you might gain an entirely different viewpoint of looking at things that could further enhance your decision-making capabilities.

7. Network to gain visibility

Networking is the best and most crucial part of building a career. Networking with people outside of your department can help you learn about different fields and experiences that can help along your professional journey. Networking involves meeting the right people who can help you currently or in the future with your career goals and you might miss an opportunity if you miss building a strong network. Networking sites such as LinkedIn, Meetup, Xing, Launchmeet, Twitter threads, online webinars, and even Facebook groups are very useful as joining these with a clear mindset of being productive can be very resourceful for your professional life.
Now, let’s dive into the wonders networking can do for us:
  • Grabbing Internships/Jobs- Having connections in organizations related to your domain might help in seizing an internship or job opportunity, thus helping you build a strong resume.
  • Multiple Mentors- Finding a mentor that can help with all of your career needs can be difficult. Networking can assist in establishing a mentorship support system that is available on a part-time basis. It enables you to match your requirements with the coach you believe can best assist you.
  • Professional Development- Being in touch with already established professionals and learning from their techniques and skills can surely bring about a lot more professional development in you than being with people who are at the same level of understanding as yours.
  • References- Having strong references on Resume or Letter of Recommendation can help you excel at any organization, be it a higher educational institution or a corporate workspace.