How to plan your career

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Planning your career, both short term and long term, is crucial in order to give you the necessary goals to aim for.

If you have not already done so, it is important to consider drawing up several types of goals – some for your current position, others for moving up the in-house ladder and others for your career as a whole.

Even though they are related and could well overlap in part, it can be useful to separate out your objectives.

Consider what goals you can reasonably accomplish within the next year and which ones will take more time to reach.

Make sure you document these objectives, so that you don’t lose sight of them, on a preferred medium such as on a whiteboard or a large sheet of paper on the wall of your home office, an Excel spreadsheet, or pages in a diary.

Write down not only your specific career goals but also the reason why each is important to you. These reasons will serve as motivation if your energy to reach the goals ever wanes; they will also help you determine if a certain objective is still worthwhile the next time you reassess your goals.

Grand plans

‘Most people have a “career strategy” of some sort, ranging from what they want out of their next job to where they see themselves in five years’ time,’ says Phil Sheridan, senior managing director, Robert Half UK, South America and the Middle East. ‘But often these grand plans have to take a backseat to all day-to-day responsibilities, leaving little time for proper career planning.

‘If you are serious about progressing your career and achieving your ambitions, it is important to set yourself personal goals and give yourself the time to achieve them. The first step is to identify your long and short-term goals – for example, do you want to attain a particular role, or achieve an industry certification?

‘Consider why you want to achieve these targets, consider how it will help your career (and, indeed, your own happiness). Only then can you decide which areas you need to improve to reach these goals.’

It has never been easier to access professional development and training opportunities, either through your existing employer or privately through a range of accredited online training providers.

Whatever your ambitions, you should work with your employer to develop a continual learning plan – one that is focused on developing specific skills that will further your career.

Attitude and behaviour

‘While skills and training are critical, so is attitude and behaviour. It is equally important to foster social networks, both in the office and through networking, and to seize every opportunity for self-improvement such as reading industry publications,’ adds Sheridan.

‘The old saying about “dressing for the job you want, not the one you have” may not be as strictly relevant as it once was, but adopting the most positive and responsible attitude at work will work wonders for your career. Don’t hide your light under a bushel – put your hand up, take responsibility and exceed expectations at work every day.

‘With application, planning and pro-activity, you will give yourself the best chance to achieve your aspirations. So don’t delay – start planning for your future today.’

This article was first published in Student Accountant

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