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Your Career

Take Action to Achieve Your Career Goals

Now that you’ve decided what your next career move is going to be, it’s time to figure out how to make that move successfully.

The final step in the 4 step career planning process is to use these 4 strategies to help you develop an effective action plan.

1. Put your plan into action

I'm changing my job's description

Manuela locks the door of the wedding shop with a smile. Today's conversation with her boss had gone well. Usually Manuela works the cash register, selling bridal shower favours, and chair rentals. But after 2 years, the work was so boring that she'd considered quitting. "I love being around the brides," she confided to her partner last night, "but taking their money is the least interesting part. I want to help them plan one of their most important days." So she decided to take action. She started by talking with her boss. Although Manuela is still responsible for the cash register, she is now a junior bridal consultant. "By next year, I'll be a full consultant. And in 5 years, I plan to have my own shop."


By this stage, you probably have several lists of things to do and a plan for managing potential challenges. Now you need to bring them all together into one overall plan. List tasks in the order in which you must complete them and set deadlines for each task.

Successful career planners keep themselves moving forward towards their goals using a variety of methods.

2. Manage challenges

Look over the list of things you will have to do to reach your goal. Can you think of any challenges that you might face trying to achieve your goal? For example, do you have financial concerns or family responsibilities that demand your time and energy?

Have you succeeded or failed trying to reach goals in the past? What can you do to improve your chances of success? What plans can you make to manage your challenges?

For example, if there is a chance you will not follow through with your plans, ask yourself why. Think of steps you can take to increase your confidence, improve your skills and keep yourself motivated. Could you, for example, try out a program by taking an evening or distance learning course before you sign up for the whole program?

If you’re having trouble identifying the challenges you might face or figuring out how to deal with them, talk to people you trust. Ask for their suggestions, but always make your own decisions.

3. Plan backwards from your goal to where you are

One of the best ways to move forward is to plan backwards. Can you accomplish your goal today? If not, why not? What do you have to do first? Is there something you have to do before that? Keep thinking backwards in this way until you arrive at tasks you could do today.

For example, if your goal is to take a 2–year business administration program, could you start today? No, you have to be accepted to the program. Could you be accepted today? No, you have to apply first. Could you apply today? No, you have to decide which post-secondary institutions to apply to. Could you decide today? No, you have to do some research first—and so on.

Chances are your list of things to do will grow into several lists. Plan backwards from each major item until you can identify the task that you should start with.

For example, to attend a 2–year business program, you will likely need to do more than just apply. You may also have to arrange for financing, find student housing and improve your study skills before you start the program.

4. Define your goal

Goals like “go back to school” or “make a career change” are too general. Make your goal a specific statement such as “enter a college accounting program by next fall” or “for the next 2 months, search for work in the agricultural sales field.” Define exactly what you want to do and when.

  • Mark tasks on a calendar, noting important dates such as application deadlines.
  • Make weekly or daily lists of things to do in an appointment book or using a calendar software program.
  • Cross off tasks as you complete them.
  • Ask a friend to check on your progress regularly—you’re more likely to get things done if you know you'll be asked about it.
  • Reward yourself for completing major tasks. A reward can be inexpensive, like giving yourself some guilt-free time for an activity you really enjoy.

Achieve your career plan

Pursuing the 4 strategies outlined in this article will help you make an action plan for your career. The next step is up to you: take action and achieve your career goals.

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