Lesson 5: Make a Career Plan

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Make a career plan

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What do I need to do before pursuing a career? What types of goals should I set for myself? How will I stay motivated? Developing a career plan can help you outline a clear path as you begin looking for a new job.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to assess what you need to develop your career objective, how to write S.M.A.R.T. career goals, and how to create your own career plan. We'll also provide some different techniques you can use to stay motivated as you work toward your goals.

Watch the video below to learn how to use the S.M.A.R.T. method to develop your career plan.

Why develop a career plan?

Will I really be able to find a new career? What do I need to get started? How will I stay motivated? As you begin developing a plan for your career, the entire process can begin to feel a little overwhelming. While there's no shortcut to finding a new career, creating a career plan can make the process much more manageable. By developing a career plan, you'll be able to set clear goals for yourself and follow your progress as you work toward a career objective.

Below are some questions to ask yourself as you begin thinking about your career plan:

  • How can I find a new career in my field?
  • Do I want to switch career paths?
  • What position do I want to hold in five years?

Developing a career objective

Creating an overall career objective is the first step in creating a career plan. A strong objective will allow you to focus on what you really want to achieve in your career. While objectives will vary based on your individual needs and desires, below are a few different examples of career objectives:

  • Get a job paying at least $40,000 per year as soon as possible
  • Move into an upper-management position in my field in at least two years
  • Transition into a new career in the field of health administration
  • Gain experience and connections in my career field before I graduate

Reaching your objective

It's important to remember that there is no single path to reaching your career objective. The process might simply take longer or be more complicated than you originally planned. You may even realize that your career objective is simply too difficult to reach in its current form. Whatever your situation, remain flexible and don't be afraid to adjust your plan or even create an entirely new career objective.

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As you begin pursuing your career, take some time to assess your progress and adapt your objective to meet your specific needs. If you aren't satisfied with your progress, be willing to try new approaches rather than give in to frustration. A little persistence can make a significant difference as you work toward your career objective.

Setting career goals

Now that you have a better idea of what you need to reach your career objective, you will want to create some career goals. Setting definite career goals will help you stay on track as you progress toward your career objective. Your goals will vary based on your objective, but below are some examples of different career goals:

  • Secure at least three job interviews with local law firms in the next three months
  • Interview two people about what it's like to work in marketing within five weeks
  • Gather five impressive writing samples for an online portfolio by the end of the month
  • Become proficient with Microsoft Word and Excel within six months

While it's important to set meaningful career goals, you might become discouraged if these goals are too difficult to achieve. Try using the S.M.A.R.T. goal method to help you create realistic and attainable career goals.

Click the arrows in the slideshow below to learn more about how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals.

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Creating a career plan

Once you have created a career objective and have formulated your career goals, you should have a clearer idea of the career path you want to follow. Drafting a career plan will help you figure out exactly what you need to pursue your chosen career.

Try this!

Download the Career Planning Worksheet (.doc or .pdf) and follow along to create your own career plan.

  • Outline your career objective.
  • Write several different goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goals method.
  • Create a timeline or use a calendar to keep track of your goals.

Staying motivated

Now that you have a clear plan for achieving career success, here are a few tips that can help keep you motivated and on task:

  • Stay focused. Life can be distracting, so find a way to remind yourself of your goals on a daily or weekly basis. You can post encouraging notes on the refrigerator, say daily affirmations in the mirror, or set reminders on your mobile phone.
  • Use technology. There are various websites and apps for your mobile phone that you can use to set goals and keep yourself on track. Some good websites include Goalmigo, StickK, and GoalsOnTrack. Any.do and Wunderlist are good mobile apps that you can use to track goals.
  • Make yourself accountable. Tell friends and family members about your plan so they can help you by asking about your progress toward your goals.
  • Keep a journal of your progress. Record the ups and downs you experience. Reflecting on your thoughts and feelings will help you overcome difficulties and realize how much you are actually accomplishing.
  • Prioritize. Sometimes having many goals can be overwhelming. Decide which goals are most important and therefore should be accomplished first.
  • Adjust your goals. If things are not working out the way you thought, don't give up. Simply reassess and adjust your plan as needed. Success is often a process of finding out what works and what doesn't.
  • Reward yourself. Meeting a goal feels good and should be celebrated. Whether it is a small treat or a big party, rewarding yourself will boost your motivation.