Career Path Planning for Employees: Guiding Principles
Molly Hitchens studied business for years before launching her career as a journalist and analyst specializing in original and innovative business planning. She shares her expertise through her work with The Idea Trader as well as through in-person speaking engagements at universities around the country.
With the rise of the gig economy, we have also seen a major shift in how jobs and careers are perceived, both by companies and by individuals.
It is no longer necessary to start with a company at a relatively young age and stay with that company for years and years, hoping that one day you will be promoted to the tier of upper management, or maybe even the level of C-Suite executives.
Yes, that’s still an option for certain people, people who have decided at 19 years old that they know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
These are the people who will strand themselves on the figurative barbed wire for a chance to work for a recognizable brand. And if they never rise through the ranks, they’ll just have to accept their fate.
But not all of us have to think this way. The truth of the modern world is that everyone needs to do some career planning, in some form or another.
Below you’ll find tips for career path planning for employees.
Take the Time to Find Yourself
Before setting out to tackle your goals, you’ll need to make sure that you know what you want from your career and your place of work.
The best way to get perspective on who you’d like to be in the future and what you would like to be doing is to set aside some time for yourself.
It could just be a weekend or it could be a week-long vacation to someplace quiet where you can hear your thoughts more clearly.
Once you have a better sense of what you’d like to do with your career, then you can move on to the next step: setting tangible goals.
These goals should range from simple to complex, short-term to long-term.
To get you started, we’ve outlined a few different types of goals you may want to set before launching into a 5-year or 10-year plan.
Sometimes, deciding where you want to live takes a back seat to what you’d like to do in terms of your professional career.
And while a specific type of profession does sometimes have an effect on where you will live, it’s important to ask yourself how important geographical location is to your happiness and overall wellbeing.
Are there cities or towns you’ve visited in the past that you immediately fell in love with? Do you prefer one area of your home country over another?
Next in line is deciding what you’d like to do specifically. At first, this may mean that you need to choose which industry you’d like to work in. But that’s just the beginning.
Within that industry, you should isolate several different roles that seem appealing to you and play to your natural strengths.
Try to analyze the technical requirements of each position. How much socializing does it require? Would it require you to work long hours for many years? Is there a good chance of being promoted?
All of these factors and more should be considered when choosing the type of job you’d like to pursue over a number of years.
If you're interested in starting your own business, check out our guide for how to start a side business while still working with your current job.
Another major aspect of choosing the type of career you’d like to enter is what kind of lifestyle that job would allow you to have.
For better or worse, work often dictates how we live our lives in many different ways. Work can dictate our schedule, our stress level, and even the people we meet and socialize with.
This is why it’s crucial to explore different industries and jobs through the lens of how they would affect your day-to-day life.
Research Your Path to Success
Now that you have your larger goals in place, you can start to look into how you can go about achieving those goals.
Do you already have the technical skills required for the job you really want? If not, you may want to research local adult education courses that would allow you to gain those necessary skills in a relatively short amount of time.
If you’re hoping to advance within your current company, you could potentially ask your human resources representative whether the company offers any financial assistance or time off for employees who want to go back to school.
Solidify a 5-Year Plan
Your 5-year plan should cover all the minor details that will come up in your journey to the career and the life that you want.
Each of your larger goals should have a list of smaller goals that will help you achieve those larger goals.
For example, if you plan to move to a new city with a greater wealth of job opportunities in your desired industry, then you should write out the many steps it will take to make that move a reality.
Typically, this would involve saving up a significant amount of money and looking for employment in the new city before you even arrive.
Try to see whether you have any friends or family members living in that city who could potentially help you find housing and employment.
It will take a lot of work to do detailed career planning. There’s just no way around it.
But if you’re truly passionate about your desired profession, then you may actually enjoy all the work and effort that will go into making that dream come to pass.
And while you’ll need to do much of that work yourself, never be afraid to ask for help. Friends, family, and other professionals already working in your desired field can be an invaluable resource when it comes to creating realistic expectations.
Furthermore, remember that plans change. You may find that 2 years into your 5-year plan you no longer have much of an interest in the career you’ve been chasing.
That’s fine. People change all the time. You can still look for ways to put your newfound skills to use.
Stay flexible and you'll rebound from potential disappointments much faster.