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How to build a career plan

How to Build a Career Plan in 6 Intelligent Steps

Life comes at you and it doesn’t slow down. When you joined the workforce, having a career plan was simple. Now you’re busy and it’s a lot harder. No one constructs a storm shelter during a hurricane. It’s just, without a working career plan it’s easy to get off track. You may be making a decent salary and have plenty of responsibilities. That doesn’t mean you’re living your best life. If you’re worried you may never achieve your goals, then it’s time to reassess. Here’s how to build a career plan.

Take the Time to Think


On your next day away from the job, carve out some me time. Meditate and reflect. One study pointed out  that used purposefully, self-reflection enables ongoing personal and professional learning. Don’t just reflect on your career path. Reflect on your values, skills, and passions. The more you recognize your true desires, the easier it will be to craft a plan. Don’t discount spur of the moment ideas. As entrepreneur Tim Ferriss explains he often asks himself, “[What] am I thinking about early in the morning when I wake up or last thing at night? If there’s an idea or seemingly frivolous project that I just can’t get out of my mind, I’ll follow that. That scent trail is really important.”


Most people spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about the future when they were growing up. If you want to know how to build a career plan, a good start is asking yourself what did your childhood dreams about adulthood look like? How did you manifest them? Perhaps there are aspects of your job that are aligned with your goals. For example, you wanted to be a reporter but in your marketing career you get to write and interview consumers. Is this where you want to be? Will it lead to what you want? Admitting that you aren’t where you want to be and won’t get there in your present job is scary. However, it’s a very important first step.

Make Some Lists


The physical act of writing down your goals on a piece of paper has proven benefits. It can help you clarify them while serving as a reminder. There are career-focused journals that can help. To start, write down everything you like about your job. Don’t edit yourself. If you love Friday lunches with colleagues, put that down. You never know what will be a clue. On another page, list the things you dislike about your work. Of course if this list is twice as long as the other one, then it’s likely a sign. Finally, list your career achievements –– the accomplishments you’re proud of. Ideally you’ve been recording these all along but if you haven’t it’s a good habit to start. Not only will it be beneficial when you update your resume, it can help you feel better about yourself –– which is always a good thing.

Take Some Assessments 


Even if you have a clear idea of what you want or even an idea of how to get there, career assessments can be helpful. Doing a check-in through a disinterested third-party can illuminate aspects of your work and even your life that you hadn’t considered. There is a wide variety to consider.  Perhaps one of the best known, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) places takers into 16 personality types. This type of test is an important component if you’re wondering how to build a career plan. I also like MyNextMove for its simplicity and that it lets you disregard education or skills while you consider the type of work you might want to do. Tests like this one could take you down an entirely unexpected career path. 

Set Down Your Path


Examine the list of things you like about your job along with the results of the career assessment. From here, you can employ the SMART method. This stands for goals that are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Make actionable goals a part of your career plan. If you can, discuss it with a trusted friend who doesn’t work at your company. Tell them what you hope to achieve. By saying your goals out loud you give them power. Informing a friend turns them into an accountability partner who will keep you honest. This has proven results. As one study noted,“76 percent of participants who wrote down their goals, actions and provided weekly progress to a friend successfully achieved their goals.”

Update the Resume


You might want to consider starting fresh. Whether you’re looking for a new career or just new opportunities, there’s something motivating about having a brand new resume. It can give you confidence. Plus, most of us only think about our resumes when we’re searching for a job. Unfortunately, it’s likely that you were rushed and dealing with deadlines. This time, get the resume organized before you start the job search. It’s a good idea to work on it over the course of several days. If you’re staying with your current company, polishing your resume will remind you of your strengths. 



If your career plan includes work you’re not currently doing, reach out to your network. Either there is someone on it doing the work you aspire to or there is someone who can make an introduction. The goal is to get an informational interview or shadow someone. Before you make a shift, you want to make sure this is a path you want to pursue.


Working on your career plan can be inspirational and motivational. No matter how busy you are, the time you take to work on it today will pay dividends tomorrow. I know you can do it!


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