3 career planning tips to act on today

By Robert Half on 4th January 2016

Mapping out the path you want your professional life to take gives you a better sense of your goals, as well as the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them.

How often do you think about career planning? Does strategic thinking about your professional goals take a backseat to managing all your daily responsibilities? Here are three career planning tips well worth considering today.

Some employees drift through their careers and simply keep their fingers crossed that they eventually receive the raises and promotions they feel they deserve. But doesn’t it make sense to be more proactive? Career planning puts you in the driver’s seat. Mapping out the path you want your professional life to take gives you a better sense of your goals, as well as the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them. It also shows employers you’re dedicated to your career.

The following career planning tips can get you started:

1. Take time to reassess

Are you working toward a particular professional goal? Say, to become a manager? Or to earn an industry certification? If so, start by evaluating these objectives. Are they still relevant?
Then, take a look at your skills and expertise. Which areas do you need to improve on to reach the goals you’ve set? Refer to your last written performance review for additional insight. Consider asking your manager for feedback on skills you are lacking and opportunities to pursue relevant professional development training.

2. Build your brand

Your skills and abilities are marketable to current or potential employers, just as products and services are to consumers. In order to better promote yourself either within your company or externally, you need to build a personal brand. This doesn’t mean you need to design a logo and hire a PR team. But you will want to make sure your LinkedIn profile is current and complete. Create a uniform CV and cover letter combination as well.

Even if you’re not actively searching for a new position, taking these steps now will make it easier to jump into the job market when you are ready. And keep track of your professional accomplishments at work so you have a running list prepared before your next performance review or career discussion with your manager. A built-up personal brand and list of achievements on the job can also help you pursue career opportunities that suddenly arise either with your current employer or with a different one.

3. Identify long- and short-term goals

You’ll likely have several types of goals — some for your current position, others for moving up the in-house ladder and others for your career as a whole. Even though they’re related and will overlap, it’s useful to separate out your objectives.

One way to do so is to think short term versus long term. Which goals can you reasonably accomplish within the next year? Which ones will take more time to reach? Be sure to document these objectives. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose sight of them. Use the method that works best for you: a whiteboard or a large sheet of paper on the wall of your home office, an Excel spreadsheet, or pages in a journal.

Write down not only your specific career goals but also the reason why each is important to you. These reasons will serve as a motivation if your energy to reach the goals ever wanes; they’ll also help you determine if a certain objective is still worthwhile the next time you reassess your goals.

Finally, give yourself achievable deadlines so you can better plan and have tangible dates and benchmarks to strive for.

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