Decide if You’re in Correct Career Path
The most important consideration to your career planning and a happy future is whether you are in the career that is the best fit for you. Many new college grads have difficulty in finding a career path that truly fits their passions, taking a job that may or may not be close to their ideal just to have a job. Others simply don’t know exactly what they want to do with their lives and settle for any job.So, the first step is deciding whether you are experiencing the intrinsic satisfaction that comes from working in a career that aligns with your interests and passions. Take the time to evaluate both your job and career path as you decide. While salary is an ingredient in the overall picture, it’s more important to decide whether you are happy with the work you are doing.
Consider Alternate Careers
If you know or decide you’re in the right career, you can skip this step; however, if you decided you are not in the correct career, take time in your career planning to research possible new careers.Start first with assessing your personality, strengths, skills, interests, and values. The more you know yourself and what excites and motivates you, the easier it will be to find a career that matches. You can accomplish all of this self-assessment on your own, but if you’re stumped you might consider one or more of these Career Assessment Tools and Tests,Once you know yourself better, the next step is exploring careers that match your profile. Review new careers through sources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook and other career tools found in our Career Exploration Resources. Consider hiring a career or life coach if you need a deeper level of help and feedback. (Find a coach in our Directory of Life and Career Coaches.)A final useful step for deciding if a new career is right for you is to conduct a few informational interviews with people already working in career you are considering. (Learn more in our Informational Interviewing Tutorial.)
Develop a Realistic Career Plan (With Realistic Expectations)
One of the hardest parts of career planning for any job-seeker is developing a realistic plan for career advancement. This process is even harder for some millennials who are used to quick and easy advancement (often from over-protective well-meaning parents who have helped clear obstacles blocking the path).While economic realities and corporate restructuring have changed many traditional career paths, most organizations and professions still have an accepted path through which job-seekers advance in their careers. If you’re goal is a promotion, review the tips in this article, Moving Up the Ladder: 10 Strategies for Getting Promoted.For this step, your goal is to find the fine line between being ambitious about moving up the corporate (or professional) ladder and realizing that specific steps or levels require a set amount of time before most job-seekers can advance. Remember, too, that you may need additional professional development and/or advanced training or education to get to the next step in your career.
Build Your Network of Contacts
It may seem odd that an article about career planning involves networking, but the stronger your network of contacts — especially those in your current or desired career path — the more likely success you’ll have advancing in your career.As part of your career planning, set goals for expanding the number (and quality) of people in your network over the life of the plan. To build some bridges to people in a higher position in your career, consider conducting some informational interviews.Learn more about networking here: Networking Your Way to a New Job.Learn more about informational Interviewing here: Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
Find a Mentor
One of the most important tools in helping guide your career planning — and offering valuable feedback to your planning — is a mentor. A mentor is typically someone at a much higher position in your same career field — someone who may or may not work for a mutual employer.Because mentors are typically older, have more experience, and hold a position of power, they can be a great resource to your career planning and advancement.Learn more in our article, The Value of a Mentor.
If your career is not progressing at the speed or path you desire, you can make changes to improve your situation. The key for all job-seekers — but especially for millennials — is patience.There is evidence that younger workers and job-seekers are perceived by some employers as not having the skills or experience that older workers offer, frustrating qualified younger job-seekers who lose out jobs or promotions. Take these lessons to heart, but don’t allow yourself to become bitter or negative. In fact, career planning should help you develop a better plan for your future.
Final Thoughts on Career Planning for Gen-Y
Career planning is a great tool for examining your current situation and helping plan and direct your future. While career planning is mainly a tool for your personal use, it’s also something that you can share with others, such as your mentor — or even your boss (assuming your goal is continued advancement in your current career path and your current employer).Remember that you should never be “stuck” in a career. If you find yourself in a career that no longer fits your needs, you can always change careers. (Learn more in our article, The 10-Step Plan to Career Change.)If you’ve never really done any serious career planning before, the next step for you is to read our article, How to Conduct a Career-Planning Weekend.Finally, for more information about career planning, go to: 10 Tips for Successful Career Planning, as well as our collection of Career Planning and Guidance Articles for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.