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You go to a family gathering or a friends’ reunion and you get asked, “What are your plans for higher education?” or “What have you thought about your career?” Such questions can be very challenging to answer because most of the times, people do not have everything around their education and/or careers sorted enough to be shared with others. To save yourself the embarrassment of being blank at such situations, it is important to first have a career planning process.
It is better to start the process of identifying your career goals at an early stage, irrespective of where you live. This process should include the following four steps:
- Understanding Who You Are – First off, you need to look at your personal interests, skills and values. This will help you identify all of the factors that are important to you in making a career decision as well as shape up your life outside your career. This can include things like your geographic preferences and management styles. I recommend conducting a personal SWOT analysis, helping you identify your own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. A SWOT analysis will essentially let you assess the skills that you have developed over the past years, that values that you hold of what motivates and satisfies you, as well as your interests in particular tasks, topics and issues. You can achieve your career goals if you can find a good balance of all three of these. It is equally helpful to take a reflective approach by performing an analysis of your hobbies and determining the factors that led you to a certain path in life. Try to understand the experiences that you personally feel close to and why. Recall three of your favorite moments from school or your first job and investigate the factors that made those moments so special for you. Also, consider what geographical locations appeal to you. For example, if you enjoy taking your mountain bike uphill every weekend then finding a job in a metropolitan city hours away from bike trails might not be your cup of tea. If you enjoy sunbathing by the beach, then finding jobs in the tropics might suit you. If you are married or have a partner, you will also have to think of them. There might be a leader partner/spouse who dictates the location move and a trailing partner/spouse who might be tagging along. For example, most of the people who are married to doctors are trailing partners because you need a license for a specific region or country to practice medicine while most other careers have greater flexibility to work from anywhere, even your own home! There might also be the undesirable temporary separations to be able to achieve your bigger goals – you just need to be prepared for such things upfront.
- Exploration of the World around You – Next, you will need to look at all the current career paths and the ones you find the most interesting. I advise you to attend career seminars and job expos to network with relevant people and give interviews just to understand how you should present yourself. Informational interviews is another thing that can help you, which can be set up in the form of telephonic or in-person meetings with people from a variety of career paths. Try to learn what they do, how they got in the field and what their opinion is on the future of the profession. You can start this exercise with your friends and family members and then see how this goes. Conducting these interviews will also help you consult with professionals to see if there are any opportunities to volunteer or have an internship at their offices, providing you a soft entry into the career of choice. Check out these 9 Tips for Nailing an Interview.
- Building Yourself and Networking – Once you have explored your options well, you will need to figure out the skills, experience and people who will get you to the career that you desire. Gaining valuable experience and building up your network of contacts is essential to creating a solid resume that will be noticed by the hiring managers. LinkedIn is a great place to network with professionals. It can also help you in finding valuable resources to help you achieve your career goals. Another such website is Monster, one of the oldest online jobs portal. Monster has a dedicated Career Advice section that can help you with your career-related queries. You can find out more about the top job websites here. Once you shortlist a couple of career paths that you like, you will need to build relevant skills and experience in them. These days, there are websites like Udemy and Edx that can provide you with the core skills that you will need to excel in your career. This is also the right time to switch to a different career if your existing job is not where you wish to stay for long. I would say that the first couple of years that you will spend getting experience would shape up your career. You will need to do a lot of hard work in connecting with the right people and joining relevant professional societies at during this time.
- Searching for Jobs – The final step in landing a career of choice is the actual hunt for the job that gets you there. You should now be able to compile all your application material, including your resume, cover letter and portfolio (if your job requires you to maintain one). I recommend that you apply at multiple job search portals. Another good practice is to contact the companies that you would like to work for, as many companies list their latest jobs on their own websites. Try to highlight how you have developed your skills and experience over the past year(s). Be strategic in your approach – apply only for the jobs that perfectly fit your skills and your career goals. Incorporate this progress in your cover letter. Be sure to always create separate cover letters for each job post, making them personalized to the job role and the hiring company. Consider how you will tackle the interview questions when the hiring manager will go through the cover letter and the resume in front of you. Focus on the “tell me about yourself” question and how will you give your introduction, sharing your experience stories and how you have developed. An ideal introduction should not be longer than 5 minutes – just focus on the highlights and stay away from the fluff to ensure the HR team stays interested and focused.
The above four processes will help you shape up your career aspirations. They will also help you become more marketable in your career path. Understand that you will also need to be wary of any other opportunities that might lead to you achieving your career goals. It might be that you are offered a different job at a company that can offer you the career of choice. You might consider “getting in” and then working your way to the department or job title that you aspire to have.
Identifying your career goals can be a constant process that keeps evolving as you develop as a professional and a human being. External factors and your dependent also trigger your decisions. Whatever you do, you should try to keep a balance of everything to find the career path ideal for you. Consider your personal interests, the skills that you should have, the locations and regions that you are comfortable with as well as whether you are the leader or trailer in the relationship with your spouse or partner. You should spend a lot of time on the major job search websites and social media platforms like Linked to get an idea of the career that will work for you. Do not shy away from asking for help. Nobody reaches the top on his/her own and we all can benefit from expert advice.
Conviction and determination is essential to achieving your career goals. You cannot triumph if you remain indecisive or if you keep changing your goals. A little perseverance will get you a long way. I also feel that many of us start thinking that it is too late for them to change their careers and that they should just go with the flow. This fear of the unknown should not stop you and if there is something that you really feel you can excel at, you should do every effort to achieve it.
Have you achieved your career goals or working towards getting your dream job? Let me know of your experience in the comments section. You will also like our other blog posts on similar topics, like Career Planning: What To Consider For Future You and Is Your Current Career Cramping Your Style? Make These Changes Now.
Good luck with your career hunt!