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

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 November 2022 | Published 16 August 2021

Updated 28 November 2022

Published 16 August 2021

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.

An effective career plan can guide your professional life successfully, from finding the first job of your interest to enjoying a rewarding career. You can create a career plan at any stage in your career, so even if you have not used one in the past you can create one while you are already working. With careful career planning, you can evaluate the field where you would like to make your career and develop a strategic plan for achieving your goals. In this article, we discuss what is a career plan and the steps to create a plan.

What is career planning?

Career planning involves mapping the key steps of your professional future. It helps you to choose your career, get job stability and financial security. It is a process where you get aligned on the below point which will help to choose the right career for you:

  • Identify your strong areas

  • Understand how your skills, values and talent can be used to choose your career paths

  • Match your skills with jobs and careers

  • Match your career objectives with financial needs

  • Identify if you need to attain higher education or professional certifications

  • Match your career objectives with educational needs

How to make a career plan

Below are the steps for how to make a career plan:

1. Identify your area of interest

First, try to identify your area of interest in which you would like to make your career. Choose a field that makes you feel confident, successful and also analyse the technical skills that you learned in school or at work. For example, you might know how to teach concepts to a class, operate heavy equipment or develop a media buying plan.

Next, think about the soft skills, behaviours and traits you have gained. For example, you might know how to analyse an issue critically, or you might excel at communicating clearly. Match your list of technical and soft skills against career paths you are considering seeing how well they fit.

2. Learn about potential career plans

Start gaining knowledge about career options you are considering by asking friends, family and colleagues about their jobs. Find out what skills they use and what qualifications they have. Ask them what they like and dislike about their jobs, and what type of experience they earned before their current position.

Next, research top companies and seek professionals in the field. Attend in-person or online networking events or set up informational interviews with experts. To gain hands-on experience in a potential profession, try pursuing volunteer opportunities, internships or job shadowing experiences.

Related: How to Find Your Desired Career Path

3. Discover growing job markets

Growing job markets offers the most professional potential. Try talking with experts in your field to learn about some of the most exciting opportunities they foresee. Read the top publications and online news sources for your field, and watch for emerging careers that interest you.

For a more comprehensive view of growing job markets, review data-based studies published by various agencies and create the list of fastest-growing occupations. By doing the research, you can identify which jobs have the greatest growth potential and offer the highest median pay.

4. Understand career qualifications

Begin by reviewing the degrees you will need to attain to work in your field of choice. Identify whether you will need a bachelor's degree in a specific subject and determine whether you will need a master's degree to pursue advanced positions.

Next, examine the professional certifications that could help you excel in your field and review the licensure requirements for your profession. Take note of the licensing process in your area to make sure you have the basic qualification and professional experience to attain the license.

5. Assess salaries and other benefits

To assess the earning potential in your field, try exploring salaries on Indeed or browsing careers by industry. Here, you can find the average annual salary for common occupations and also identify factors that can increase your earning potential, such as acquiring an advanced degree or certifications.

As you review job listings, make a note of the benefits each position offers, such as healthcare, holiday time and telecommuting opportunities. These benefits can reduce your expenses and improve your quality of life, making them essential to factor into your total compensation.

Related: Learning Styles for Career Development

6. Compare possible career paths

Once you consider a few possible career paths, evaluate all your options. One option may require specific skills, the other may require additional qualifications and another may have higher earning potential. Also, compare how each career option matches your core values and will help you reach your long-term career objective.

If you prepare a list of the pros and cons of each professional path, it will help you estimate which option will help you arrive at your career goals.

7. Develop a career action plan

Once you choose the career path to follow, plan the steps you may need to follow to be successful in your career. You can create a timeline for when you expect to attain your specific roles. Also, keep your action plan readily available to review it regularly. Keep yourself motivated by rewarding yourself at the completion of each step of your action plan.

New opportunities, technological advances, skill development, personal priorities and trends in the economy can all cause essential career planning changes. Thus, keep revisiting and reviewing your action plans as and when necessary.

Related: The Career Planning Process: Practical Steps

Use SMART goals effectively

To pursue your career path may take years. Thus, it is advisable to break down big objectives into small goals to track and achieve them easily. You can write a career plan by setting SMART goals as below:

  • Specific: Try to create specific goals. For example, if you want to be an engineer, choose the discipline in which you want to be and attain a job in the same discipline.

  • Measurable: Your goals should be such that you should be able to quantify your progress towards reaching your goal. You can set benchmarks like achieving the certifications or applying for ten jobs in the area of your interest daily.

  • Attainable: Your goals should be achievable considering your time and knowledge. Think about the individual step you may need to take to reach your goals. This way, you will be able to check if your goals are attainable.

  • Relevant: Any career-related goal you set should genuinely matter. Think about how important the goal is and whether it will help you reach your long-term objectives.

  • Time-based: You should set timelines for both short-term and long-term goals. Setting timelines will be helpful for you to keep yourself motivated and work towards your goal. You will also be able to assess if you have realistic timelines for your specific goals or need to revisit them.

Related: Steps Involved in a Successful Career Planning Process

What is my career plan?

Below is the example you may refer to while creating your career plan:

Professional goal

My ultimate professional goal is to reach the position of Regional Sales Manager of the luxury car brand.

Short-term goals to reach the long-term goal

Below are some short-term goals I may need to achieve to become a regional sales manager:

  • Become top sales achiever for each quarter

  • Become a sales manager in current company

  • Join other organisations to gain experience in sales and networking

Career action plan

Below is the action plan and timelines to achieve each short-term goal:

Short-term goal 1

Action plan: to become a top sales achiever for each quarter of 2021, I would attend sales calls with the senior manager and learn how to introduce myself to potential clients and build strong relationships with them. I will also increase my professional network by attending networking events.

Timeline: Jan'21 - Feb'21

Short-term goal 2

Action plan: in order to become a sales manager in my current job, I need to be consistent with my sales. I will learn to understand the client's needs and ask the right questions to fulfil their requirement. I will constantly gain knowledge about luxury vehicles launching in the market. Also, develop leadership qualities and encourage teamwork.

Timeline: Jan'21 - Dec'21

Short-term goal 3

Action plan: I will gain experience in the sales field and develop territory management skills to be a regional sales manager.

Timeline: Jan'21- Dec'21

Related: Guide: How to Choose a Career

Tips for making a career plan

Below are some tips that you may consider while creating your career plan:

  • Aim high: No matter what your current skill set is, you can always learn and develop new skills to get the job you aim at. Aiming high will keep you motivated to learn and work towards your goal.

  • Focus on strengths and interests: It is important to keep your strengths and interests in mind to get a job that will satisfy you both professionally and financially.

  • Adjust when required: Your career plan may change when you grow personally and professionally. It is important you adjust your plan to stay focused on your goal.

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