Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Where is your career headed today? Does it have a future?

The average person is expected to change careers three to seven times in their working life.

There are those who will change careers because they pursued a line they weren’t passionate about, others will change careers to earn more money, while another group will either change to fit in a job category or secure a job.

In all given instances, you will need to have a buffer that will prevent you from falling through the cracks when making such moves. This buffer is your career plan.

Here, we take a look at how you can develop a workable career plan.

Know yourself: Do you know why you pursued the career you did? Is this what you always wanted to do? Is this your passion? These are questions you must explore and get answers. The answers you get will help you shape up and adjust to increase performance and productivity.

“What set of skills, knowledge, expertise and career character do you have? It is much easier to develop a plan and align it with your career targets when you already know what you want,” says Margaret Buj, a career coach and author of ‘Land that Job’ e-guide.

Link the short term with the long term: For your plan to facilitate a steady career growth, you will need to have short term and long term goals.

According to Perminus Wainaina, the head of recruitment and managing partner at Corporate Staffing Limited, a human resource firm based in Nairobi, these goals must be complimentary. “You must link these goals such that the short term goals increase your acceleration towards the long term goals,” he says.

Your short term goals may include short courses that will give your qualifications an edge. For example, if you are in the field of marketing, you can set goals such as acquisition of digital marketing skills. If you are in the field of journalism, you can arrange for data journalism skills through short online courses.

Type of goals: It is not every goal that should find its way into your career plan. According to career coach Ashley Stahl, the goals in your career plan must be specific, realistic, measurable, relevant, and bound by time.

“Don’t store these goals at the back of your mind. Put them in writing together with the whole of your career plan,” she says. Once you write them down, you should carefully get an accountability partner who will help you stay focused towards attaining them.

“You must build a sense of accountability around you for the plan to work,” says Ms. Stahl. When it comes to long term goals, Mr. Wainaina says that the goal must be supported by actionable steps that will help you realize it.

“For example, if you are a marketing officer, and your long term goal is to become the company’s head of marketing, you must identify the requisite steps you need to take to make this happen. This includes attaining higher academic qualifications, building a rich experience portfolio, and rising through the ranks,” he says.

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Leveraging and learning: According to Ms. Buj, you should leverage and learn as much as is possible from those around you. This will involve networking and building of new career relationships with your colleagues, seniors and other corporate leaders and mentors.

“Create a network within and outside your organization. Attend career related conferences and events and tap on the host of opportunities that are usually on display,” she says.

You should also be clear on how long you’ll learn and the point at which you will start to execute the things you have learned. At the same time, your career plan must give you space to grow.

For instance, you must consider whether you’ll be changing jobs or not. “Endeavour to grow from one centre. Changing jobs too many times can be very destabilizing,” says Mr. Wainaina.

The other side of the coin: Your career plan will mostly contain positives. But you will do well to evaluate the negatives as well and the possible consequences they may have on your career.

“It will be an error to put focus on the pros alone. Instead, create two columns for the pros and cons. Contrast them and see how they align with your values as a person and an employee, and the consequences they will mete out on you,” says Ms. Stahl.

One of the things you must not overlook is how your personal life and your career will interact.

For example, you may be single when developing a five year plan that will consume most of your time and add major responsibilities on you. Consider what may happen should you decide to get married or have children midway, and how such possible changes in your personal life can be accommodated without derailing your career growth.

Stay relevant: When all is said and done, you must stay relevant and irreplaceable to your employer. Robert Hellmann, a career coach and the author of Advanced LinkedIn, says that there will be no gain in developing an outstanding career plan only to lose your job before you can implement it simply because of your lackluster work performance.

“Stay on top of things, by improvising your knowledge and grasp of things, to ensure that you maintain relevance without sending hints that your services can be done away with,” he says.

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