For some people, planning comes naturally. For others, creating a plan and sticking to it isn’t as easy. Not just planning with a calendar and making sure you don’t miss any meetings. This is the kind of planning that helps you reach your long-term career goals. The plan is an organized way to put into practice the little steps you want or need or think you need to take to reach your current goals. Here are six tips for creating a successful plan.
- Skills you want to learn – Every career requires you to have certain skills. Let’s say your goal is to be a graphic designer for a big magazine; one skill you might want to learn is how to use Adobe Illustrator. That is a specific skill that will get you to your goal of being a graphic designer. To do this successfully, write down the skills and then the steps to learn it. For example: I will practice using Adobe Illustrator 1 hour a day for a month. Then I will offer to design something for someone for free and use the feedback to better my skill.
- Places you want to go – Have you joined professional associations? Do you want to be a professional chef specializing in French Cuisine? This means you have some places to go that need to be added to your plan. If you have joined professional associations then you might want to attend conferences.
- Build time for travel and a budget for fees and other expenses (i.e. flight or special training) into your plan. Sometimes good planning can lead to grants and fee waivers, but even if you end up paying, the connections you can make at meetings of professional associations are worth it. You can start out small and go to local meetings and conferences, eventually building up to attending a national (or maybe even international) conference. If you want to specialize in French cooking and the place you want to go is France, you might have to save a little longer before you can plan that; but still put it in your plan. Start out taking French cooking classes, working in a local French restaurant, or taking a French language class.
- Projects you want to start – If you are a graphic designer then you might want to start building your portfolio. If you are a future chef, you could start writing down your recipes for a cookbook. Entrepreneur? Better start the work on that business plan. Whatever your goal is think of some projects that are going to help you get there and add them to your plan.
- Projects you want to finish – When you first set out on this path, whatever it may be, you probably started some projects or had some ideas that aren’t quite complete. Your plan should include time to finish these projects or at least time to decide to scrap them.
- Changes you want to make – After awhile you will need some built in reflection time. Review your plan and figure out what has worked and what hasn’t. It is O.K. to move on from ideas that had potential but never got you what you wanted. An important skill to have in life is to know what doesn’t work for you and learn how to let it go and move on. (Do I sound like a counselor or what?)
- This isn’t a negative thing. It shows you have the ability to self-reflect, prioritize, and stay focused on what you are trying to achieve. It is true growth – go you!
- Some people, particularly those with perfectionist tendencies, who like to stay organized and consider themselves high achievers, have trouble with this. Writers have to get comfortable with spending hours writing, and then deleting paragraphs of their writing (or at least saving it for another project). It isn’t easy to see your hard work “disappear”, but the time spent is for the greater good of your goals. And it was not time wasted. Similarly, in creating plans, you sometimes have to delete things that made sense at the start but no longer do now that your plan is in action. Maybe put it aside for your next big goal…
- Fears you want to overcome – Not so hot on making small talk with strangers, but dying to go to that conference? Start working on your networking skills and becoming more comfortable meeting people. There might be a ton of things that give you the sweats when you think about them, but don’t let them get in your way! Build some time into your plan to start crushing those fears.
Are you ready to make a plan to get you to that ULTIMATE goal?! Remember always be specific with ideas and dates. Deadlines are motivating and being vague is not. Or, you can always work with a Career Counselor!