What Is a Career Plan? (Plus How To Create One in 8 Steps)

Updated 7 July 2023

An effective career plan can guide your professional life successfully, from finding your first job to enjoying a rewarding career. With careful career planning, you can take steps to evaluate your professional options and develop a strategic plan for achieving your goals. It can also help you remain focused when facing challenging tasks. In this article, we answer, 'What is a career plan?', explain how to plot a successful professional path and share different assessments you can use to find a career that's right for you.

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What is a career plan?

A career plan is a list of steps you can take to accomplish goals in your professional future. It helps you identify what fields you want to pursue, develop long-term objectives and devise a strategy for career success. Developing a career plan can help you get organised about your future, so you can prepare to make important decisions about what classes to take, whether you want to get an internship or what positions to apply for next. Ideally, your career plan can work as a motivating tool by breaking down a long journey into smaller steps that are easier to execute.

How to start planning your career path

Consider these steps when creating your career path:

1. Learn about potential career options

The first step to creating a useful career plan is figuring out what career you're interested in pursuing. Think about your talents and the activities you enjoy. Ask friends, family and colleagues about their careers, including their job satisfaction level and what qualifications they needed. You can also research top companies in a variety of fields to seek professionals in that field. Research an industry or company that interests you. Find networking events or informational interviews you can set up to ask questions about potential career paths.

Here's a list of career paths that may interest you:

  • Administrative

  • Advertising

  • Business management

  • Communications

  • Community and social services

  • Creative and entrepreneurship

  • Education

  • Engineering

  • Human Resources

  • Retail

  • Technology

Related: How To Choose a Career Path

2. Discover growing job markets

A growing job market is a job field that is currently generating more positions than it has in the past. It can also refer to career fields where the average salary is consistently increasing. It may be easier to get a job or earn promotions in growing job markets because of the increase in opportunity. Try talking with experts in the field to learn about any exciting developments that are happening. You can also subscribe to industry-specific newsletters and publications to stay updated on current events.

3. Identify careers that match your skill

You may feel confident and secure in a career field that uses the talents or technical skills you learned in school or work. For example, if you excel at coding and have a natural eye for design and colour theory, you can pursue a career in website design.

Think about your soft skills as well. Soft skills are behaviours and traits you have acquired that may make you a good fit for a specific career. For example, if you always care for others and try to make them comfortable, you may be successful in a nursing career. Compile a list of technical and soft skills to compare them to the industries that interest you. This can help you decide what career you want to pursue.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set for Career Success

4. Understand career qualifications

Once you have selected a career to pursue, think about the steps you may need to achieve success in your field, including any qualifications you may need. Many career fields may require a bachelors' degree in a specific subject. You may need a graduate degree to be eligible for more advanced positions.

Many career fields, like medicine or education, also require specific licensing. Research what licensing requirements your desired profession may have. Pay specific attention to the licensure qualifications to make sure you can meet the requirements for licensure. These qualifications can help you measure how far along you are on your career path.

5. Assess salaries and other benefits

An important aspect of selecting a potential career is understanding what salaries are available for different career fields. You can explore salaries online to see what the average pay is for a specific position. You can also compare what the salaries are in different cities or locations to help you determine if moving is a good step in your career path.

Different positions may also offer different benefits. You can pursue a career based on holiday time, telecommuting opportunities or travel opportunities. These benefits can decrease your overall living costs or improve your quality of life. Consider what benefits would make a career appealing to you and compare the offering of different companies or institutions in each industry. Your career path may include increasing your salary or benefits through hard work and experience.

6. Compare possible career paths

Once you've created a list of possible career paths and benefits, you can compare and contrast your options. For example, one career may pay more than another but requires more financial investment in additional education. Besides financial and practical considerations, think about what career path can contribute to your personal happiness by matching your core values and giving you a sense of fulfilment. One career may offer financial security but may not be sustainable if you don't enjoy the work.

Read more: Top Tips for Successful Career Progression

7. Establish SMART goals

Pursuing your desired career path can take years and requires many steps. To track how you're progressing through your career over time, divide your career steps into smaller goals that can you can track. Consider using SMART goals to guide you through each step. By completing each goal in your plan, you can consistently work towards success in your career. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Be detailed about what your goal is. For example, getting a law degree from a specific university.

  • Measurable: Choose a goal you can quantify, so you can measure how close you are to reaching it. For example, increasing profit margins by 50% within three months is a measurable goal.

  • Attainable: Set goals that you can achieve. Think about the individual steps you can take to accomplish your goal to make sure they're realistic. Setting and achieving attainable goals can help you reach bigger ones.

  • Relevant: Think about how your goal can improve your career. For example, setting a goal of running three miles is not relevant to the career path of becoming a lawyer.

  • Time-based: Set deadlines for your goals to motivate yourself. For example, setting a deadline of three years to get a law degree.

Read more: How To Develop SMART Goals

8. Keep a record of your plan

Once you have picked your career path and set your goals for it, write down your plan so that you can reference it. Having a chart of the steps you can follow can help remind you of how far you have come and what you are working toward. You can create a schedule to keep track of all your time-based goals. Check off each item as you complete it and reward yourself for achievements.

You can revise your career plan as necessary. New opportunities may arise that require reorganising your goals or your schedule. By having an updated record of your career plan, you can keep track of the changes you make to stay organised and prepared.

Related: What are goals in life and how to set them?

Career assessments

When selecting a career, you want to understand your needs, strengths, personality, skills, talents and interests to make informed academic and career decisions. You can determine these items on your own by making a series of lists or through a variety of tests, including:

Value evaluations

This assessment evaluates the value you may place on your work by considering factors such as:

  • Salary level

  • Interactions with the public

  • Contributions to society

  • Prestige

Interest evaluations

Evaluate your likes and dislikes regarding an array of activities, people and objects. Many interest profilers, including the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, match your interests with six types:

  • Realistic

  • Investigative

  • Artistic

  • Social

  • Enterprising

  • Conventional

Then, the evaluation matches your type with the occupations that fit your interests best.

Personality evaluations

You can use online surveys like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This test categorises people into 16 personality types based on the following characteristics:

  • Introversion or extroversion

  • Sensing or intuition

  • Thinking or feeling

  • Judging or perceiving

People with some personality types may do better in certain occupations than others. For example, an introvert may prefer to work independently.

Aptitude evaluations

Consider your abilities and strengths. They can let you know if you need more education or training. It can also help you decide if you want to spend the time, money and effort needed to start a brand-new career.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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