The Career Planning Process: Practical Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 29 September 2022 | Published 15 December 2020

Updated 29 September 2022

Published 15 December 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Career planning is a crucial step that can determine the direction of your professional life. This process involves taking specific steps to achieve your goal, and you may be required to reiterate these steps many times to stay on track in your profession. In this article, we find out how to take practical steps in career planning so that you can continue to advance in your career.

What Is Career Planning?

Career planning is a process of identifying the professional path that would suit your personality, interests and goals. It involves exploring different career options, performing a self-evaluation to test your suitability for these and finding the right ways to get on a career track. For instance, you can find out which educational qualifications you would need for your career, what type of training you can take and what professional opportunities might be available to you later.

If you are already in a career that you like, you can use the career planning process to set short-term and long-term goals for what you want to achieve in the next five, 10 or 20 years. You can also evaluate your options and decide to take a new career direction.

Related: Step-by-Step Guide for How To Make a Career Plan Effectively

What Are The Benefits Of Career Planning?

Career planning can benefit you in the following ways:

  • You may be able to figure out what you want to do in your professional life.

  • You can avoid wasting time and resources in trying to enter career options that do not suit you.

  • You can choose to get specific educational qualifications and training that would benefit your chosen career.

  • You may be more confident about the career choice you have made.

  • You can focus on your career goals and work to achieve your desired short-term and long-term results.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

What Are The Steps Involved In Career Planning?

For successful career planning, consider following these steps:

1. Complete a self-evaluation

The first, and sometimes most difficult, step of career planning is to make an informed decision by understanding yourself and what you want to do. For this, you would require to consider your personality, strengths, weaknesses, values, interests, talents, aptitude and goals. You can determine these things by creating a self-evaluation list that includes the following questions:

  • What do I enjoy doing the most?

  • In what do I excel?

  • What are the things that motivate me?

  • What are the things I dislike doing?

  • What strengths do I have?

  • What are my weaknesses?

  • What type of lifestyle do I want?

  • What kind of work-life balance do I want?

  • Do I want to work in an office or outside?

  • What is my desired salary level?

  • Am I an extrovert or an introvert?

  • Do I enjoy frequent interactions with other people?

  • Do I work better on my own?

  • Do I want to do work that makes a positive difference to society?

  • Do I want a career that brings me social prestige?

  • What can I do with my educational qualifications and experience?

  • Do I have the time and money to get the necessary qualifications and develop new skills?

  • Do I have leadership qualities?

  • Do I have creative and enterprising qualities?

  • Am I able to handle responsibilities?

  • Am I able to bounce back from failures and setbacks?

  • Am I able to stay calm and focused in stressful situations?

  • Am I willing to relocate for the job?

  • Am I willing to work night-shifts if the job calls for it?

You can also use online career assessment tools or consult a career counselor to get help in figuring out what kind of occupation and work environment would suit you best. Take your time with the self-evaluation and make sure you are clear about what you want to do in the future before you take the next step.

Related: What Is The Importance Of Planning? (With Advantages)

2. Conduct career research

After you have figured out your interests, aptitude and strengths, research different types of careers that could potentially suit you. If you have consulted a counselor or used online career assessment tools, you may get career suggestions, and you can start with those. Otherwise, you can research the different industries that you find promising and compile a list of the jobs that are possible in them.

You can then research each job separately and gather information about the educational qualifications, skills, training and experience necessary for assuming that role. You can find out what the work responsibilities are, what the work environment is like and what advancement opportunities are available. Additionally, you can gather information about the position's salary levels and benefits. It can also help to discover the advantages and disadvantages of that profession.

Once you understand the practical realities of different jobs, trim down your list to the more suitable options. You can research these further by connecting with experienced professionals and getting their first-hand perspectives on what the work involves. Consider your interest and capability for following in their steps. That would make it easier for you to make your final choice.

3. Perform market research

Before you commit yourself to any career, it is advisable to conduct market research on its current and future viability. You are required to find out if there is a current demand for the job in the industry and if there would still be a demand for it in the next 10 or 20 years. You can also find out how you can adapt and what types of work choices would be available to you if things change in the future.

4. Start skills research

Compile a list of educational qualifications and skills that are essential for the career and find out how you can get them. You may be required to research educational institutes that offer the requisite training. These institutes require to outline the courses you can take, if you can take online, part-time or full-time courses, the course duration and the admission eligibility and fees. It may also help to learn about the continuing education you would need once you get started in the career.

5. Assess your options

After gathering the relevant information about the shortlisted careers, do an honest assessment of how well-suited you are for them. Carefully consider if you can sustain your interest in the job long-term, if you can handle the daily responsibilities of the position and if it can provide you with the lifestyle you want. Determine if you have the time and resources to get the necessary education for your selected career.

Related: Guide: How To Create An Individual Development Plan

6. Consider interview research

Once you have finalised your career choice and decided how to get the education and skills training, you require to plan the steps you can take to get the job. Find out what the interview process is for the profession and prepare thoroughly for it. Look up interview videos online and note how the successful candidates present themselves. Practice answering commonly asked interview questions with a friend and record yourself to get an idea of your confidence level and body language. Pinpoint your weaknesses and work to improve them.

7. Explore work experience options

Find out about the availability of internship opportunities or part-time work positions in your chosen career. If there are any, consider sending in your application letters. While the salary may be minimal for such jobs, you can get invaluable learning experience and be able to develop important professional connections. Having work experience often makes it easier for you to find a full-time job later.

Related: How To Write an Action Plan (With Template and Example)

8. Begin your job search

It is a good idea to start looking for jobs before you finish your educational qualifications. You can find out about different companies in your industry, the types of job requirements they have and which skills are in high demand. You can learn how to write effective application letters, cover letters and resumes that would catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.

9. Accept a position

After you apply for positions, you may end up getting job offers from different companies. At this juncture, the self-evaluation list you prepared before would prove useful. You can review the company size, job demands, possibility of career advancement, salary, benefits, location and so on and make a decision that is right for you.

Related: Utilise Your Aptitude to Find the Right Career

Tips For Career Planning

You can consider using these career planning tips to stay relevant in your profession:

  • Keep up with the changes in the industry and be ready to adjust your career plans accordingly.

  • Network with industry professionals online and offline and build cordial and mutually beneficial relationships.

  • Study the job market and remain alert for available opportunities.

  • Be willing to relocate if that is necessary to get the job you want.

  • Take continuing education courses and learn new skills.

Related: How To Change Careers

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