During my everyday conversations with clients and candidates, one topic often tops the discussion agenda: The progression of a career and how it can evolve. At times, when you critically analyze your career, you find that your career just happened. My experience as a search consultant has shown me that many people don’t plan their career progression because they believe there are too many factors that will make it too hard to plan their career paths.

But, this is not actually the case for successful people. Many successful people identify their core goals and plan the actionable steps to help them achieve those goals.

executive_career_management_planning_stepsBefore we delve into the specifics around career progression, it is important to note the difference between career planning and succession planning. Career planning is the exploration of possibilities to create the place to grow and to develop for individuals. Succession planning is the identification and development by the organization of key individuals who will hold future management or leadership positions due to their skills and functional expertise.

So what should be done to hit the bull’s eye?

Career planning is an ongoing process that can help you manage your learning and development. When you plan your career, you consider many opportunities because of your age, interests, family, friends,  and, importantly, how those will link back to the achievement of your core goals.

The career planning process has four steps:

  • Step 1: Knowing Yourself
  • Step 2: Research
  • Step 3: Decision Making
  • Step 4: Taking Action

Step 1: Knowing Yourself

Start by thinking about where you are now, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. Once you have thought about your current state and your future state, you can work on understanding your skills, competences, interests and values by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Where am I at now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • What do I want out of a job/career?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What is important to me?

This introspection will provide you with a clearer idea of your work, learning and development targets and your individual preferences. You should create your personal wish list against which you can compare all the information you get. Your personal preferences are very useful for helping you choose your current best options to guide your career plan. 

Step 2: Research

Once you have an idea of your occupational preferences you can research the specific skills and qualifications required for those. Explore occupations that interest you and ask yourself:

  • How do my skills and interests match up with these occupations?
  • Where are the gaps? If any?
  • What skills do I need?
  • Where is the work?

At the end you will have a list of preferred occupations and/or learning options. 

Step 3: Decision Making

At the end of this step you will have refined your options and will have a better idea of what you need to do next to help you achieve your goals. It is worth asking yourself:

  • What are my best work/training options?
  • How do they match with my skills, interests and values?
  • How do they fit with the current labor market?
  • How do they fit with my current situation and responsibilities?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What will help and what will hinder me?
  • What can I do about it?

Step 4: Taking Action

Use all you have learnt about your skills, interests and values together with the information you have gathered about the world of work to create your plan and detail the steps you need to take to put your plan into action. Ask yourself:

  • What actions/steps will help me achieve my work, training and career goals?
  • Where can I get help?
  • Who will support me?

At the end of this step you will have either:

  1. A plan to help you explore your options further (work experience, work shadowing or more research); or
  2. A plan which sets out the steps to help you achieve the next learning or work goal.

Most important is to understand yourself and the environment you are in, or would like to be in. Remember that a career is shaped by many factors, such as performance, education, environment, experience and luck. Individual career planning is an ongoing process, but is key to successful career management. It uses all the information provided by the organization's assessments of requirements, assessments of performance and potential, and the management succession plans; and translates it in the form of individual career development programs and general arrangements for management development, career counseling, mentoring and management training.


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