Why You Need a Career Plan

Some people will spend extensive energy preparing for a trip, meticulously arranging every detail of their excursion, but they will not invest the same time and effort planning for their future careers. How about you? Do you make time to review your professional goals and ambitions? Are you satisfied with your current job, or do you wonder about other options that could be a better fit? Establishing and implementing a career plan can help answer these questions and more. Career planning is a beneficial process used to map out the steps, skills, goals, and even the people you will need to help you reach your professional aspirations.

Engaging in periodic review of your current career status is more essential now than ever before. We live in a fast-paced, information-driven, knowledge-based global economy where the work world is changing at a rapid pace, and the skills you need change just as fast. The future will bring new and different employment options which will require you to be adaptable, resourceful, and proactive. One way to ensure you will always be ready and responsive to advance in the job market is to create a plan based on an assessment of your current knowledge, skills, interests, values, and goals. A flexible career strategy is also necessary to allow for happenstance within your plan, both personally and professionally. Chances are you may refine your career direction several times over your lifetime. Whether you are just formulating your first career plan or reviewing an older one, here are some tips to consider as you move forward:


  • Conduct a Career Self-Assessment: Take a formal or informal inventory of your current career values, interests, skills, strengths, and lifestyle preferences. What is most meaningful to you at this point in your life? Is it a high salary? Benefits? Work flexibility? What are you really interested in? Is there something new you want to, or need to learn to remain competitive in your field? Identify your transferable skills. Are there strengths you can apply to another line of work, or skills you can hone for your current position?
  • Research Your Career Field: Once you know more about the level of career satisfaction, and/or the skills you wish to polish, look for opportunities to gain advancement. Seek education options, job entry points, both within your organization and externally. Use online sources to research current market trends. Where is job growth expected? What is the outlook for your line of work? Investigate the Occupational Outlook Handbook (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to learn more.
  • Make Informed Decisions: Once you have gathered good information, reflect. If you are considering a change, evaluate the pros and cons. Consider risks, if any. Are you happy where you are? Do you need additional training? Consult trusted contacts. Prioritize as needed. Then, determine the best solution for moving forward.
  • Set Goals: Look at where you are— and where you want to be. Do the next steps you have chosen seem reasonable? Logical? Set short-term goals to follow (0–3 years), and long-term goals to reach (3–5 years). Make sure the goals you develop are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).
  • Document Your Plan: Write it down. Include the steps/goals you have decided on and corresponding dates. Add whatever other information is helpful to you. Remember that the plan should have structure but also be flexible. Consider posting it in a place where you can see it. If you need a template, visit Excelsior College Action Plan. Refer to it throughout the year. Revise it as needed. Note when you have achieved something. Acknowledge your accomplishments and celebrate!

Benefits of Career Planning

No matter what industry you are in, or what level position you hold, career planning can become an integral component of your professional life. This beneficial process will help you gain more control, instill a stronger sense of purpose, and create a more definitive vision for your future. Break free from any self-imposed limitations, and realize the full potential of your abilities. Select a time that works best for you; perhaps the New Year or early spring. Whatever you choose, commit to continuous lifelong learning, and devote some time to review your career plan each year. Then, go ahead and spend the rest of your energy arranging that next trip. Learn more about Excelsior College’s 3+1 program.