3 Steps to Successful Career Planning

As I sat down to consider my advice for planning your career in the best way, the words of Dr. Stephen Covey resonated with me. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr Covey advised to “begin with the end in mind.” What does this mean and how do you begin with the end in mind?

Step 1: Understand yourself

The first and most important step in preparing your career plan is to identify your skills, abilities, interests, and preferred work style. You must be able to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses if you are to be able to establish an effective career plan. Complete honesty in your self-assessment is a must. You should not only look at your skills but also at your personality, as this too can determine the sort of career that you are suited for. When planning your career, it is important to aim high and be ambitious, but also to be realistic.

Step 2: Begin with the end in mind

The next step in your progression is to think about what you want to achieve from your new career. Are you looking for more money? Better working hours? A new location? A flexible schedule? Remote work? Travel? To ensure the most satisfaction in your future career, it is important that you find a balance between what you want and what you don’t want. Find your rhythm, what drives you and what motivates you, and determine the best path forward to achieve your end goal—begin with the end in mind.

Although careers often have twists and turns, it’s important we choose our path based on where we want to be five or ten years from now rather than on how much you want to be earning. Understandably, salary is a major motivator for many people, but it should not be the driving force behind your career plan. You should be looking for careers that can ultimately get you to where you want to be, even though it may take some time to get there.

Step 3: Make it manageable

The greatest challenge with a big, scary goal—like “I want to be a VP of Revenue Cycle in five years”—is that it can seem daunting if all you do is write a single sentence.

Instead, you want to break it down into smaller, more manageable goals. For example:

  • What are the immediate steps that will get you closer to that goal?
  • What skills do you need to add or improve and how can you learn them? Books, internships, taking on responsibilities before they are officially yours to take, and asking your leadership what you need to do better or differently, can help add those much-needed skills.
  • Who do you need to meet that can mentor or help you along your journey? Make contact with people who are already working in the role you want to achieve. Find out how they got there and plan what steps you need to take. In essence, network.

Creating these more manageable goals is important because the answers to these questions will become your roadmap to success.

Be flexible

Career planning is an ongoing process that can be changed and updated based on whether or not you have developed any new skills since you initially prepared your plan. In time, your own goals and ambitions may also change. It is important that your career plan is flexible enough for you to be able to consider other options that you may not have considered at the time when you created your plan. If you have honestly and successfully identified your key strengths and weaknesses, and researched your target markets, the right opportunity should be out there for you.

Next steps

Once you have completed your career plan, it’s time to implement it! After investing a significant amount of time working through what you want from your career and how you can achieve it, you need to get out there and actively search for your ideal position. Begin by preparing a strong, up-to-date resume that highlights your strengths related to the position for which you are applying. To help complete this exercise, be sure to check out my original blog here about effective resume building.

Now that you have built your resume, it’s time to send it out in response to job postings or to companies that you would like to work for. If possible, get feedback on unsuccessful applications and make any necessary adjustments to your career plan. No matter how long your career search takes, the career plan should be referred back to on a regular basis. This helps to keep you focused on what you are aiming to achieve.

No matter what path you choose, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. The adventure is in the pursuit, not in the achievement. What will be your next adventure?

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