The decisions you make at this stage can affect the rest of your career, so it is vital to plan ahead now to set the foundation for a successful future.
Career planning is an ongoing process that can help you manage your learning and development. It is the continuous process of thinking about your interests, values, skills and preferences.
The process also includes exploring the life, work and learning options available to you and continuously fine-tuning your work and learning plans to help you manage the changes in your life and the world of work.
Begin by thinking about where you are now, where you want to be and how you are going to get there. When planning your future, it is important to take your short-term and long-term goals and ambitions into consideration.
Ask yourself the following questions…
- Where do I ultimately want to be in my career?
- What steps can I take today to achieve my goal?
Your employer should help you to visualise a career path and highlight the opportunities that are open to you within your current organisation.
Lorraine Twist, operating director at Michael Page Finance, says: 'A career plan will help you to stay focused on what you really want and make sure that you are developing the right skills and experience to get you there. We find that people who plan ahead are generally more likely to make good choices when establishing their careers and are rewarded with the opportunity to become successful quickly.
'Once you have thought about where you are at now and where you want to be, you can work on getting to know your skills, interests and values and putting your plan into action. Use all you have learned about your skills, interests and values together with the information you have gathered about the world of work to create your plan.'
Break down aspirations
Breaking your long-term aspirations down into short and medium-term goals will make them more manageable and enable you to take first steps towards reaching them. You might realise you need to take a training course in order to learn new skills or freshen up on old ones, or develop your IT or language skills through online learning.
'You will need to conduct detailed research on your career path of choice. There are a variety of options available to professionals, each of which will require different skills and experience,' says Antony Mason, a senior practice consultant at Capita Specialist Recruitment.
'Once you have carried out your research you should be in a better position to pinpoint the specific qualifications and experience required and therefore better placed to develop a robust career plan. In addition, don’t forget to seek advice from colleagues and external career experts.'
Whether you measure success by promotion opportunities, contribution to society or addressing your work/life balance, the importance of identifying your personal and career goals and motivations should not be underestimated. Dedicate time to managing your own career and considering your skills, strength and motivations.
Karen Young, director, Hays Accountancy & Finance, says: 'Managers and colleagues will give guidance, while a mentor can often help provide a valuable external perspective on your career path. Talking to an expert recruiter can help highlight the skills and experience that you might be missing – even if you are not planning to move right away.
'If your exam results were not what you had hoped for, think carefully about why you failed before rushing to retake them, and figure out what you can do to increase your chances of success next time. Keeping focused on your career plan will help motivate you for the next set of exams.'
It is advisable to regularly revisit and make use of these processes all the way through your career to ensure you stay on the right path and heading in the direction that you really want.