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Career planning is a lifelong process that can help you manage important life and work decisions. Find out how you can benefit from it.
Wondering what all this talk about planning for your future is about? Find out why it might be a good idea to start thinking about your career now.
Career planning helps you make decisions throughout your career, whether you are just starting or planning retirement. Follow these 4 steps to plan your career.
Knowing what to do after high school starts with knowing yourself. Take the first steps by understanding your values, interests, and abilities.
The first step in planning your career is to know what you value, your interests and the things you’re good at. It's time to get to know yourself. Take one or more of the quizzes to help plan your career path.
When planning your career, it's important to explore the occupations you’re interested in and maybe discover some new ones.
The second step in planning your career is to explore the occupations you’re interested in and maybe discover some new ones. Find the tools you'll need.
Part of career planning is to compare and evaluate your career options. Follow these suggestions to help identify the best option for you.
The third step in planning your career is to get ready and evaluate your career options. Follow these suggestions to help identify the best option for you.
By now, you’ve decided on your next career move. You also know there will be challenges. It's time to make sure your career move will be a success.
Get where you want to go. It can be exciting to identify a career direction and create a plan to pursue it! At the same time, where you are right now can seem like a long way from where you want to be. These 5 steps will help you take action and shorten the distance between you and your vision of the future.
Setting goals based on your dreams can help you face challenges and make changes in your life and career. Learn how to set SMART goals.
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Plan Your Career
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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.

Use these 4 strategies to help you develop an effective action plan.

1. Put your plan into action

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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