How to Plan Your Career

- hints, tips, advice and guidance on how to plan your career and ensure you get the job you want and progress to the best of your ability.

Planning your career is essential if you are to achieve what you want within your career. Although there will be many factors that will change, and you are most likely to end up not exactly where you planned, it is essential to plan your career so that you have a firm aim in mind, and are continually preparing yourself for the next stage in your career.

Many people do not plan their career and take opportunities as they arise. This may be fine for many people, but may mean that you do not get the job you want or achieve your career goals.

Taking time to plan your career is time well spent. Success in developing your career can usually be attributed in part to good career planning you may have done.

Whether you really enjoy your current job, and current employer, or whether you are seeking to move on from your current job as you feel confined or frustrated, career planning can help. It helps set your career in the right direction, and set in place any training or experience you may need for the next stage or stages in your career.

Career planning basics

There are no hard and fast rules for planning your career. However there are a number of useful pointers and guidelines. The first part is to look at how to plan your career in two forms:

  1. Long term planning:   Planning for the long term is equally important, and forms more of a strategic plan.

  2. Short term planning:   As the name suggests this is more of a tactical form of planning, looking at the near term goals.

  3. Look for opportunities:   While it is always good to have a plan, it is also necessary to look out for opportunities as this is an essential part of any career strategy.

  4. Continue to re-evaluate what you want:   As time passes, and the work place changes, and new opportunities arise, aspirations may change. It is worth continually evaluating your career and what you want.

When looking at how to plan your career, both forms of career planning are important. It is also important to be flexible and look at your plans in terms of the changing environment in which you may be. Opportunities sometimes arise out of nowhere and they need to be considered. So it is important to remain open to them and flexible, while still being realistic about whether they could be beneficial.

1 - Long term career planning

When looking at how to plan your career, it is really the long term planning that needs to be done first. It is necessary to have a view of what you ultimately want to do, as this will shape both long term and short term career plans.

This form of career planning normally involves looking at a period of five years and more. Looking at long-term goals that cannot be achieved immediately. However it gives a sense of direction to many of the decisions that will be made.

Long term career plans tend to be generic in nature. This is because the workplace is changing, and also many new opportunities may arise that might not have been thought of or considered before.

It is necessary to first spend some time thinking about where you may want to be in five, ten or more years into the future. What do you like doing - what do you want to do, etc..

Having decided the general direction it is also worth looking developing many of the core skills that employers will always need. They may also be focussed on those skills that may be needed one, two, or even three stages ahead. Possibly management diplomas or degrees if this is the direction that is being considered.

Just is when looking at how to plan your career for the short term, it is necessary to take time out to look at yourself, and imagine where you may want to be in the future and setting in place a form of plan to achieve this.

2 - Short term career planning

As mentioned before the short term planning focuses on the more tactical forms of how to plan your career. The timeframe for this type of career planning may range anywhere from the next few months to a couple of years. The key element of any short term career planning is to develop realistic objectives or goals for the near future that may help in the next stage of any career.

3 - Look for opportunities

One of the key elements to any successful career is the way in which any opportunities that arise are taken. By keeping one's eyes open it is possible to see many useful opportunities. They can be evaluated to see if they fit in with the career plan, or if not is it worth changing the career plan to fit.

This does not mean that you should jump at all the possibilities that arise, but that possible opportunities should be carefully considered to see if they would be of benefit or not.

4 - Continually re-evaluate your career plan

As your career progresses, the workplace is likely to change, your life circumstances are likely to change, and your aspirations may also change. As a result it is worth continually analysing what you actually want from your career: what you want to do; how far you want to go; work life balance, etc. Often as people gain families the work life balance becomes very important, and the cost of rising up a company may no longer be worth the gains. All these choices need to be made against the background of the current situation.

In view of these changes, it is wise to honestly re-evaluate the direction of your career and whether it is what you actually want.

As a result of these career evaluations, people may sometimes want to take a career change. Fortunately today's fluid workplace means this is more of a possibility than it previously was.


It can be seen that it is necessary to look at how to plan your career, and then to set career plans in place both for the short term and the long term. This will make you more marketable and able to pick up jobs and employment when conditions are poor. It will also help significantly in being able to know what job you want and then to get it. However, many people do not know how to plan their career, and this is a significant disadvantage to them. Time, thought, research and honest self assessment can make a considerable difference and can improve your career by a significant degree. Knowing how to plan your career can make a significant difference!

By Ian Poole

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