Plan early and avoid stress

27 February 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

Careers have always been presented as things that people just have. They happen after you get the appropriate qualifications and training and gain employment with a company looking for talent. That has been the way of things for many years. Increasingly millennials are finding that careers are no longer the organic results of hard work and dedication. They require tending, strategising, and yes, planning.

Most of us remain mystified by the idea of “career planning”. How does one chart a route towards a target career? How useful is a career plan in a world where changes in markets can render an entire industry practically null and void in a matter of months? The answer is yes, you need a career plan, now more than ever. It is precisely because of the volatility of markets and the ever increasing competition for talent that you need a plan. Think of yourself as a navigator of a vessel trying to cross the ocean. You should first have a destination in mind before setting sail, else you are almost certainly bound to become lost at sea. So how do you create a career plan?

All such plans begin with four basic elements.

1. A destination

Maybe you are unsure of the exact position you ultimately want to acquire, but you are fairly certain of the industry that interests you. That is a good start. Explore your options. Talk to people in that field and get their views about what various positions entail and the day-to-day challenges they have experienced. Be specific, but don’t wed yourself to the idea. Remember, the seas can change and over time you almost certainly will. Be ready to say, ‘this isn’t what I thought it was going to be’ and re-evaluate.

2. Explore your interests and your strengths

The good news is that the two may very well be the same. If you want a career that provides an essential level of “job satisfaction” then pursue the one that exploits your natural interests. Do financial markets fascinate you? Do you enjoy organising campaigns and committees that help people live better? Even if biology is not your best subject, is it your favorite? If you know your interests, and follow them, you are more likely to find a career that you are uniquely suited.

3. Do your homework

Which are the better teaching institutes? What Universities did most of the sitting judges on the Royal Courts of Justice attend? Ask questions. Find out how others accomplished what you want to achieve. How can you emulate their various steps. In short, endeavor to make decisions based on having done your research.

4. Be honest with yourself

I went to University with a girl who intended to become a doctor. She was the first person in her family to attend University and she had a real interest in patient care and medicine. After two years she realised that she wasn’t prepared to endure the rigor of studying medicine. So, she crossed over into nursing. You demonstrate your strength of character when you alter your plans to fit needs and changing circumstances.

Career planning isn’t a science. There are no right or wrong answers. What works for others may not be appropriate for you. But, there is no need to go it alone. There are career coaches, professional associations and mentors who have the expertise to help guide you to your target career. It is always in your best interest to avail yourself of their services. Get a second opinion. While we all fancy ourselves as navigators of our own destinies, it never hurts to pull over and ask for direction.

Jameka Neil

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