January 3, 2013

Developing a Career Plan

By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

So here we are at the start of another new year.  Happy 2013!  The start of a new year is an opportune time for reflection and planning.  Although there are many areas to ponder over, I would suggest that it is the perfect time for everyone to look at their career plan.  This can also be the perfect time to develop a career plan for those that do not have one.

A career plan can definitely aid you in developing and maintaining a more satisfying career.  With periodic review, a career plan will also keep you focused throughout your career and ensure that you continue to develop professionally.

First, you have to think forward, long range.  Begin with where you want to end your career?  Think of the position that you would like to hold when you end your career.  This now becomes your ultimate goal.

Next begin the process of establishing a pathway by which to reach your goal.

In thinking of where you want to end you career, you need to start with where you are at today.  Look at how close you are, within the organizational chart, to the ending position that you desire.

You may find, in your review, that there are other positions that you may wish to pursue in order to further develop toward your ultimate goal.

You can then obtain a copy of the job description from the Human Resources Department.  Review the current job description in a detailed fashion so that you develop an idea of what is called for in terms of skills, education, and certification requirements.

If you find that you do not possess the education or the required certifications, begin the process of finding an educational program to obtain these.  Not having the required education will certainly keep you from any interviews for higher level positions.  If you find that you are short on specific skills, seek professional development.  Keep in mind that you will have a choice between traditional, hybrid, and online courses.  Be certain that you select the instructional delivery that best suits your learning style.  Never sacrifice learning solely for convenience.

Once you find the educational program to meet your needs, determine the length of time required to complete the program.  It is important to keep focused on the task at hand and not to be overwhelmed by the required length of time.

As I mentioned before, begin with where you want to end your career.  Be sure to also plan on your eventual exit.  I think this is one of the most critical parts of any career plan as this allows you to establish milestones along your long range timeline.  This allows for you to leave on your terms.  It also, prevents you from retiring long after your prime.  Moreover, in my opinion, this allows you to enter retirement, or a change of career, with greater ease knowing that it is part of your plan.

One thing to also keep in mind is that you may have to leave you current organization in order to reach your ultimate goal.  This may also entail moving to a different part of the state or country.  Although this type of decision may be difficult to make, it may be the best alternative in the long run.

Finally, as with all plans, nothing is guaranteed.  There are other forces, both internal and external, that can affect the ultimate path of your career.  Know too, that you can always alter your plan as a result of choice or consequence.  As the sayings goes, “Nothing is set in stone.”

Make no mistake though; you are more likely to reach your ultimate goal with a plan than without one.

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