Career Planning Process – Steps, Examples & How To Make It

Author: Emma Williams
Author: Emma Williams

Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Table of Contents
Stop guessing your natural talents. Find out your strengths now.

Most of the time, career planning stops either upon landing the first job or after graduation.

However, career planning should not be done once if you want to have a successful career throughout your life.

Do you feel ready to take your career to the next level? Perhaps you would like extra responsibilities to gain new skills and expertise at work.

Or maybe you wish to ask for a salary increment, perks, or work-life balance? Whatever your goals are, you must design a foolproof career plan aligned with your long-term goals.

Without adequate preparation, none of your goals can be achieved.

However, if you spend time planning your next career move, you can achieve your career goals.

In this article, we will look at what career planning is and why it’s beneficial for you. We will also provide you with tips and a step-by-step guide for creating a career plan.

What is Career Planning?

A career plan is a blueprint that has your short-term and long-term career goals.

The plan also consists of the steps you will take to accomplish the goals.

This blueprint is built around your unique talents and interests and how you intend to match them to your professional goals.

Importance of Career Planning

A career plan can help you figure out what extra courses to take and what experience or internships you will need to be the ideal candidate for the job position you want.

This plan will also take into account your interests, talents, values, and career goals. Having all your information listed in a career plan allows you to understand yourself holistically and you need to know the differences between a job vs career.

You can also identify your key strengths and areas of development.

When planning the steps, you will begin to picture the path you need to take to achieve your goals.

Having the steps written out may help in reducing anxiety and boosting your motivation to keep striving for your career goals.

The process of creating a career plan can boost your motivation and drive for professional and personal development. Your career plan will also provide you with the direction you need to accomplish your intended goals.

The Benefits of a Career Plan

Having a career plan helps map out how you get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).

When you know what your end goals are, you can identify which activities are essential for you to reach your goals.

Career planning can help you to figure out skill gaps where you need to brush up.

This might entail attending extra training or courses, earning certificates on a particular skill, or enrolling in graduate school.

The Benefits of a Career Plan

A thorough career plan requires you to conduct a detailed analysis and reflection of yourself.

You become more aware of your interests, strengths, areas of development, and values. You will also list down what your wants and needs are from a job.

Listing down all these items gives you a chance to reflect on what you can contribute to your potential employers and how your career plan aligns with your life.

Most importantly, you can look at your career plan and identify what you can improve personally and professionally.

With a career plan, you can stay on track and keep yourself motivated during your darkest days.

A career plan will also act as your guide when contemplating an industry or career change. You can refer to it to check if your new career choice is aligned with your ultimate career goals.

How To Track a Career Plan

1. Create an action plan.

Make a list of the activities or tasks you need to complete to meet your career goals. When you are listing down the activities, make sure to describe them as detailed as possible. This checklist will be your point of reference in the future.

You can also set milestones for yourself to track your progress. Milestones are important stepping stones that will help you track your development. Dates, events, and numbers are some examples of milestones you can create.

2. Compare your actual accomplishments to your career plan to assess progress.

This is where you evaluate whether you are progressing on the right track towards your career goals. You can use a monitoring or documentation tool to evaluate your actual progress compared to your career goals.

How to Track a Career Plan

3. Keep track of your accomplishments.

You can track your progress by comparing your career plan to the actual actions you have taken. You must ensure that your actions and efforts are documented accurately and thoroughly.

Create a tracking system that allows you to keep track of your actions in relation to your goal. Depending on the timeline and difficulty of the goal, you can choose to track your goal weekly, monthly, etc.

How To Do Career Planning – 7 Best Tips for Creating Your Career Plan

1. Aim high

Having a set of goals can help you to achieve even greater success at work and in your personal life.

Set SMART (we will come to this later in the article) goals and always write them down somewhere visible.

For example, sticking the goals on the mirror in your toilet, on the refrigerator, etc. Another essential aspect of career planning is evaluating and reviewing your goals regularly.

Once you achieve your current goals, make sure to take some time to review and establish more challenging goals.

2. Keep your resume up-to-date

Being ready to seize opportunities when they arise in the workplace is essential for you to progress in your career.

Furthermore, when you are in a job for too long, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve achieved. Thus, regularly recording your accomplishments can save you the trouble of recalling everything at the last minute.

3. Reflect on the career plan you created before

Our personalities and preferences will change over time. Thus, it is good to reflect on what you value the most in your life and career.

Taking some time to reflect on your current career progression can help in increasing your productivity and performance. Are you satisfied with your current career progression?

What can you improve or do differently in the future? It’s a lot easier to make a career plan that fits your goals and aspirations when you know who you are and what you want.

Best Tips for Creating Your Career Plan

4. Keep a record of your achievements

When we are working for too long in a job, we may forget to keep track of our achievements in the workplace. But, this should not be an excuse.

Having a record of your accomplishments is beneficial in keeping your resume updated and your career planning.

Knowing how to keep track and document your career achievements will come in handy when pursuing your career goals.

5. Identify your transferable skills

Consider how the skills that you learned in your current job position could be valuable in a different role and for your career goals.

Make a list of the transferable skills that you have acquired throughout your career in your resume. You can also conduct research to identify the key skills in your industry (or the industry you want to change to).

By doing this, you can then devise a plan to achieve your long-term career goals.

6. Step out of your comfort zone

Another excellent way to boost your career growth is to look for ways to add value or contribute to your organization. It could be anything from improving the work process to identifying and resolving any issues that you came across.

By doing this, you can not only raise your visibility in the organization but also develop relevant new skills.

7. Explore new skills or development opportunities

Never pass up on an opportunity to develop yourself as an employee and person. It is important to keep a lookout for extra training programs or workshops that will help you to advance your profession.

Make sure to take advantage of any professional development opportunities offered by your organization. These are freebies given by your organization that can support you to achieve your ultimate career goal.

Why is Career Planning Important for Students?

1.) According to statistics, the average student loan in the United States is $39,351 per student.

Do you want to be one of the students who face difficulty in repaying student loans after graduation? We hope not, as there are heavy consequences that you need to bear when you cannot repay these loans.

You may be unable to take another loan in the future due to the missed or late repayment of your education loan. Your credit scores will also be badly affected by these repayment issues.

On top of these, when your loan payments are late for whatever reason, your student loan will be charged with a late interest rate.

What this means in simple terms is a financial disaster. This financial setback can have a significant impact on your plans, such as purchasing a property or your dream car.

Why is Career Planning Important for Students

Therefore, having a proper career plan can prevent financial losses and set you on the right track towards success and wealth.

2.) A successful career and social status are strongly linked.

Career planning is extremely critical for someone who wants a financially rewarding job that also has high social prestige.

3.) Career planning is crucial for the future because it allows you to identify and recognize job market trends that are lucrative.

As a student, it’s important to research the latest and emerging career for the next 5 – 10 years. When you stay up-to-date with the latest job market trends, you can reduce the odds of your skills becoming obsolete in the job market.

You can future-proof your career by developing in-demand skills that are essential in the current workplace. You are also setting yourself up to stay relevant in the job market for a long time.

8 Steps of the Career-planning Process

1. Identify Your Career Options

Conduct a career aptitude test and a self-assessment to identify your personality, interests, skills and values. Use this opportunity to get feedback from your friends, colleagues or loved ones on your strengths and weaknesses too.

Once you complete the self-assessment, you can narrow down a list of potential career options that suit your preferences.

2. Prioritize

It is not sufficient to have a list of career options. You need to set priorities to identify your most valuable skills or interests.

It helps you understand what is important to you — whether it is work-life balance, location, or a lucrative remuneration package.

8 Steps of the Career-planning Process

3. Make Comparisons

You can research the most in-demand career options in the future. Compare what you found with your list of prioritized interests, skills, and values.

By doing this, you can identify any gaps in your skills to fill and future-proof your career pathway.

4. Consider Other Factors

Seek suggestions from friends, coworkers, and family members. You can also ask for advice from individuals currently working in the industry.

After gathering all the required information, you can consider the benefits and challenges of each career option before making a final decision.

5. Make a Choice

Pick the best career pathways that are ideal for you. The number of career paths you choose is determined by your current situation and level of comfort.

6. Set “SMART” Goals

To carry out your action plan, you need to set SMART goals that are clear and time-bounded. You should also set short-term and long-term career goals for yourself.

  • Specific – Identify and set goals that are simple, clear and specific.
  • Measurable – Define a clear set of criteria to measure your progress.
  • Attainable — Set goals that are challenging and attainable within a set timeframe.
  • Relevant — The goals must be relevant and align with your values and interests.
  • Time-bound — Set a clear deadline to achieve the goals. A deadline with a start date and end date to keep you motivated and accountable.

Steps of the Career-planning Process

7. Create Your Career Action Plan

Make sure you create a list of well-defined action steps that can help you achieve the career goals you set. Check them off from the list every time you complete an action step.

Don’t be afraid to change any details in your career action plan if necessary. It is absolutely fine if your goals or aspirations change.

8. Meet with a Career Advisor

Meeting a career advisor is important for your career success. They can help you to reflect on your knowledge, skills, and values to sketch out a career path that is right for you.

They can also share tips and advice to progress in your career or deal with any workplace challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Career Planning

Which Careers Match Your Skills?

One method to kickstart your career exploration is to think about what you are good at (e.g., skills, interests, etc.). Do some research and search for careers that match the information you listed.

How Can Career Planning Be Successful?

Make sure to follow the eight steps of the career-planning process to create an effective and successful career plan.

Overall Conclusion For Career Planning

Keep in mind that the career plan that you have created is not fixed in stone. Make it a habit to revisit your career plan regularly to ensure that it still reflects what you want and your career goals.

Do not get disheartened by the potential challenges or roadblocks along your way toward success. No matter what happens, always refer to your career plan to provide direction and keep you grounded.

Case Studies, Academic, and Research-Based Sources

  • Savickas, M. L. (2005). The theory and practice of career construction. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Super, D. E. (1980). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 16(3), 282-298.
  • Krumboltz, J. D. (1996). A learning theory of career counseling. In M. L. Savickas & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), Handbook of career counseling theory and practice. Davies-Black Publishing.
  • Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45(1), 79-122.
  • Blustein, D. L. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall.
  • Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments (3rd ed.). Psychological Assessment Resources.
  • Patton, W., & McMahon, M. (2006). Career development and systems theory: Connecting theory and practice. Sense Publishers.
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Emma is a certified strengths and career coach with more than 25 years of international experience in helping individuals and organizations achieve success by nailing and maximizing their unique value propositions. She is an entrepreneur, proud mother and a C-level executive at HIGH5TEST, where she leads its coaching and research programs.

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