Thanks to Ali Abbani for contributing this article.
Five years ago, in my last semester studying Communication Engineering, I studied Project Management for Engineers. It changed my life. Although I liked my work as a broadcast engineer, I had doubts whether that was what I wanted to do. I was debating whether to go into project coordination instead.
When I told my instructor these doubts, he suggested making a career plan to determine whether this is what I actually like and want. This page aims to tell you what that is, how it can help, and how to implement one.
Benefits of Creating a Career Plan
A career plan answers the question, where do you want to be in one, two, or five years. Everyone should have a plan that answers these questions, regardless of how long or short you have been in your career. This, including any changes in plan, needs to be a process you constantly revisit. Once you know your long-term vision it will be easier to assess options and decide your next career move.
- Analyze and assess where you are right now. List ten things that you are good at. This can be based on positive feedback from your manager, things your instructor pointed out, or that you are known for among your peers.
- Now make another list for things that interest you but you never tried before, for example, teaching, coding, cooking, or even dancing! List ten more things.
- Make another list of ten things you are naturally good at, like singing, leading and managing, or motivating people. Try to avoid overlap with the first list.
- The final list is things you want to feel in your next job, things you want to get out of it, money, flexible schedule, working from home, etc. List ten things.
- Finally, prioritize all these lists. What are the things you want the most? And focus on the top five things from every list, they will be your baseline that you will measure against.
- Now you need to list the jobs that you think you would like to do. This is not just the one job you think of first! This step actually is the longest one, it might take days and maybe weeks. You need to go out there, ask people around you about their jobs, get inspiration and ideas from them, attend a career orientation session, talk to your university instructors. You need to gather as much information and options as you can, not just Google a few candidates.
- Be honest with yourself. What skills do you have for each job on your list? What strengths come naturally to you, what are your interests, and how would you feel in each job on the list? Reconcile all those things against your list. You can use a scoring system or develop criteria, or just eyeball it.
- Next, you need to think about some distracting points like, would you have to relocate? Would you need to study and get further qualifications? Is it going to cost you money? Is it going to be demanding on your schedule? How competitive is the industry? Measure these against your list too!
- Now you need to shorten the list based on your analysis and criteria to only the top three jobs. Ask yourself, who do you know that is already doing one of these roles? For example, get on LinkedIn and find out who is doing one of them in your contact list. Ask them for a catch up, possibly over coffee, and ask them questions that would help you decide. You can also search the job description online, read through the responsibilities and tasks of each job on the shortlist, and find out more about your job role.
4- Making the decision
- Look at the shortlist of the jobs you have made, and eliminate them again one by one, until you have just one, and trust your intuition beside the analysis you went through.
Now that you have your career goal, it is time to create your career plan! Follow these steps to get your plan started:
- You already did your research. You have the information you need about the job you picked, the requirements, responsibilities, tasks, and skills.
- Analyze this information to figure out the steps you need to take to increase your chances to get that job, let’s call them short-term goals, and goals need to be SMART. That is, Specific, know exactly where you need to develop, Measurable, make sure that it can be measured, Attainable, make sure it is something you can achieve, Relevant, make sure it will get you closed to the job you want, and finally Time-bound, make sure to set a completion date for it.
- Be open to new learning to improve your knowledge. Take a course, earn a certificate if it helps, study online, or read a book, anything that can teach you the skill that will get you closer to your dream job. If that is not enough, get experience in that specific area by taking on extra responsibilities in your current job, shadowing, joining forums and groups, or even volunteering.
It took me over a month to go through this process and develop a career plan, but it was worth it. I wanted to be a project manager. So I volunteered in two NGOs, took a course on project management, got involved in projects in my company with no extra salary, and five years later I became a full time project coordinator, closer than ever to the role that I really want.
Choosing a career is a big decision. These steps can help you decide what path to choose.