1) Identify Your Goals
Before anything else, sit down and think about what it is you ultimately want to achieve in your career. Then come up with one (or more) career goals. If you need help, ask yourself the classic interview question ‘where do I want to be in 5 years’ time’? Then extend this to 10 years. You don’t need to know exactly how to get there at this point, but having an idea of the bigger picture will help you to put the small stepping stones in place later.
For example, you may be a newly qualified accountant, aspiring to become a Finance Director in the future. Identifying your dream career outcome, whether that’s a Finance Director position, or CFO, helps to establish each individual step. As denoted within our ‘Finance Director Job Description’ article, FDs require an accumulation of skills, acquired from prior positions as either a Finance Manager or Financial Controller.
Aiming to move into a Finance Manager job or Financial Controller position within the next five years is therefore a natural move to make to further your career.
2) Assess Your Skills, Qualifications and Experience
Once you have identified your key career goals you can start to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. In order to start putting the stepping stones in place, you will need to do a self-assessment of your current skills, qualifications and experience.
Start by examining where you are right now: assess how you are currently performing, including what you are excelling at and where your weaknesses lie. From here you can then evaluate particular skills or strengths you have and identify the areas that need further development. It might also be useful at this point to reflect on your past roles or experiences. Next, look at the qualifications and experience you have. This will help you to think more realistically about where your career can go.
Key questions to ask yourself:
• What have I enjoyed doing in the past?
• What skills have I learned?
• What experiences have I had?
• What qualifications do I have?
• What do I had wish done differently or explored further?
• Ultimately, can I see myself doing this for the rest of my career?
3) Research Career Paths
Use your previous assessment of your strengths, skills, likes and dislikes to explore those roles that match your qualities and preferences. Hopefully, this will match the intention you set in step one, but if not then try not to worry. After all, this is why you are making a career plan in the first place; to identify the skills you need to achieve your goals and then put together a strategic plan to develop them.
The research phase of the career plan is most important to those who found that, after reflecting on their skills, qualifications and experience in stage two, they are either not on track to achieving their goal or are having a change of heart. In this case, research different career pathways.
With the rise of AI, it’s notable that adaptability is key. Giving yourself a sound understanding of alternative career paths and factoring these into your career plan, even if you are on track right now, could stand you in good stead in the future.
4) Create Your Goals
The key to setting your career goals is to be specific. The more focussed the goal, the more information you include, making it easier to understand how to achieve it. Ensure that you are setting yourself a timeframe or deadline to keep yourself on track, providing yourself with specific instructions on the actions you need to take.
We’ve detailed a career plan template below to help you create long- and short-term career plans.
We advise you to put together two types of career plan; short-term (6 months – 1 year) and long-term (5 - 10 years).
The long-term career plan is a useful tool to remind you of the bigger picture and what you are ultimately working towards. This will be very similar to what you have already identified in step one - your key career milestones over the next 5 to 10 years. Use our template below to work out your key milestones, the skills and experience required and the actions you will take to reach your goals.
The short-term plan will be your main reference point to keep you on track as you progress through your career. This short-term career plan will consist of goals you are hoping to achieve in the near future, making them achievable over the period of 6 months - 1 year. For example, gaining particular experience or starting a new qualification. Use the research from stage 3 to think about what you need to achieve to meet your long-term objectives and put together a strategy for how to do this using our template below.