Your Career Plan – how to make it work for you

3 ways to organize your career goals

You have dreams, goals, and plans for your career but sometimes find it hard to get everything figured out. As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Here are some suggestions for ways to get your career goals organized so that you can get moving on the path towards achieving them.

The Visual Approach

If you are someone who likes to take in concepts and information visually (like me), you might want to start with some visuals to get your goals clear and firm in your mind. Then, keep the visual reminders in view and use them to mark your progress along the way.

Maybe think about your career as a journey and create a road map with your destination and the route planned out. Think about the stops along the way – the experience and qualifications you need to acquire. Consider your mode of transport along the route – a race car or a canoe, your choice! Remember that your career path may not be a straight line.  Use colours and images to bring it to life.

Or how about a chart? You know, the kind that’s often used to show progress towards fundraising goals, like the old fashioned mercury thermometer. There’s a billboard-sized one standing beside an historic church in my neighbourhood and I’m sure you’ve seen one. As you take the steps you need to achieve your career goals, you add to the chart.

Another way to get those goals really clear in your mind is to take the time to create a Career Vision Board. Find images and words that represent your ambitions, what you aspire to. Cut pictures from old magazines and calendars, or find images online that speak to you. Paste them on a large sheet of card stock. The completed Vision Board will keep your mind on your goals and help prevent you from getting distracted from what you want to achieve.

Create a Timeline

 This one is for you if you like to plan ahead in terms of dates, times and occasions. Take a large sheet of paper and map out your career goals, aligned with the dates and the key events or accomplishments that you expect to see along the path.

An approach that works well is to look 5 years into the future. What milestones do you anticipate? Will you be reaching a special birthday or anniversary, and what impact does this have on your career? If you have a spouse, partner, or children, what life events do you see coming up? Promotions, graduations, your child’s first day at school, finally achieving that professional designation you’ve been working towards. All these could impact how you want to plan your own career.

Mark all these events on the timeline. How do your career goals fit in? Consider factors such as the income you want to earn, where you’d like to be living, how will work-life balance factor into the equation?

Focus on the future, don’t spend too much time on the past. This is your future career  and although the past is important, this exercise is about planning ahead, not looking back.

Talk it Out

If you’re someone who likes to talk things through, a key part of the career planning and goal setting process is to discuss your ideas with someone you trust. Career planning can be a complex process. There’s so much at stake, so many moving parts to be considered. So talking it through is a great idea, especially for someone who enjoys expressing themselves through words. Bouncing ideas off other people, and outlining your career goals verbally, not only gets your thoughts out there into the world, it also helps you filter the good ideas from the not-so-good ones.

Sharing your goals, dreams and plans with another person and getting their input can be helpful – but a few words of caution here. Often, the first person you’ll turn to will be a close friend or family member. All too often our nearest and dearest have their own opinions about what is right for us. And they may have all sorts of advice based on their own careers and life experiences.  While they know you well, and may have your best interests at heart, they may not be so skilled at asking the right questions, or at listening carefully to your ideas. Also, they may have little to no idea about career planning in general or your chosen career path in particular.

So my recommendation is to talk over your career goals and plans with a career professional – someone with qualifications and experience. Someone who understands career planning, is a good listener, and  who asks the questions that will help you to discover the answers you need as you plan your career.

To learn more about planning your career, download the free Career Growth Checklist here.