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Career Planning: Not Just for Students

Career planning is only for students leaving the world of academia, right? Think again. Career planning is an important task that everyone should manage throughout their working lives. Thinking that you'll stumble into your dream job is foolish. Yet, when preparation meets opportunity, the odds can shift in your favor.  

Whether you love your job - or completely hate it - career planning tools can propel you further in the workplace. If you’re happy, the right choices allow you to advance and move up the corporate ladder. For those that are miserable, a career move, or change might be the springboard to finding happiness.

Career Goals are Like Anything Else Worth Achieving

Professional growth and development require effort to see results. Because staying the course and not challenging yourself is an easy trap to fall into.

Without a solid career plan, you may never reach your full potential.

The act of setting specific career goals keeps you accountable and provides a yardstick to measure your progress. Not to mention clarifying your choices regarding educational pursuits, skill enhancements, and other characteristics required to get to the next level.

When planning your goals, it helps to think in both the short and long-term.

Short-term goals begin now and run into the next 3-5 years. The best ideas typically surface from evaluating your current lifestyle. Factors such as your happiness, income, and opportunity for growth. Improving these elements comes from strategic analysis regarding your career choices and options.

Long-term goals usually focus five years or more into the future. These goals are not individual actions per se, but “high-level” thinking of where you see yourself going.

Of course, the needs of the market change over time. However, keeping a pulse on your short-term goals allows you to make adjustments as needed.  

A Big Part of Career Planning is Understanding Yourself

Many people believe that chasing money or status is the key to career growth. In reality, that’s seldom the case. Professionals who enjoy the highest levels of career satisfaction are those that remain true to themselves.

In other words, your career planning should complement your life planning.

As author Simon Sinek famously describes, you need to understand your why. Why do you do what you do? What are you trying to accomplish? Who can you serve with your efforts? Understanding your motivations is a fundamental part of the career planning process. For instance, if you are a packaging executive, consider the following:

  • ‍Is making money your only goal?
  • Or are you looking for challenges to solve?
  • What about work-life benefits for you and your family?
  • Which activities are you passionate about or bring you the most energy?
  • Are there “must haves” in your career or, conversely, any non-negotiables?

Complementing motivations are your preferences (likes and dislikes).

  • Do you like to travel?
  • Or prefer staying close to home?
  • What about extra hours vs. sticking to the 9-5?
  • How about location? Indoors or out? Or being tied to a desk all day?

All of which are important questions to ask yourself when considering career options. If you’re not yet sure of these answers, career planning tools - such as personality tests - may be helpful.

Two of the most common are the Myers-Briggs assessment and Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Both of which identify your personal needs (interests and values) and emotional requirements in relation to career possibilities.

As with most events in life, career planning doesn’t happen if you don’t make time for it. Periodically force yourself to step away from the daily grind and think about the big picture of your life.

Where do you want to be? What do you want to be doing? Which type of lifestyle appeals to you most?

Being honest with yourself leads to heightened job performance and improved career satisfaction.

Research Your Career Options

Once you’ve determined your interests, do a little homework and see if the undertaking is worth pursuing. Research if the field is in demand and explore the opportunities within it. Find out what the risks and rewards are in relation to where you’re currently at.

Look for a need where your skills, passions, and goals intersect.

As you narrow your choices, analyze the requirements to get to your next destination. If more education is needed, take baby steps before making a full-blown commitment. Sign up for a single course or class to see if your enthusiasm holds up.

If the new skill is applicable to your current role, ask if your existing employer will pay for it. They’ll still benefit from the knowledge you gain (at least in the intermediate).

Another great idea is to talk to someone who's already where you want to be. Invite them out for lunch or dinner and inquire about their experiences. If you’re upfront about your intentions, most people are happy to share what they know.

If possible, ask to shadow them for a day or help out on nights or weekends. Whatever you can do to ensure you won’t regret your choice later.  

Last but not least, take stock of the expertise you already have. Many soft skills are transferable through other careers. For example, in the packaging industry, strong leadership, project management, and communication skills are in high-demand no matter where you go.

Simply put, you may have a lot more to offer than you think

Make a Choice and Work Your Career Plan

Once you’ve made a choice, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Keep in mind that the guiding principle of career growth is this: action equals results.

Far too many people waste time worrying about achieving perfection right out of the gate. Honestly, no one has it figured out all the time. The individuals who make progress take action, evaluate their results, and course correct as they go.

It’s okay (and advisable) to have a checklist but incorporate flexibility into your plan as well. Don’t let unforeseen bumps and hiccups derail your plans. Keep a positive attitude, stay in motion, and you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.

Don’t forget about tapping into your network either.

After all, your network is a huge advantage when contemplating a move. Even if your friends, family, or associates can’t directly provide job offers, they often know of others who can. If nothing else, they can contribute advice, insight, or reassurance to help you along your journey.

Finally, seek out a mentor and connect with an experienced recruiter who specializes in your industry. These types of folks can share advice to accelerate your growth and warn you about common pitfalls others have encountered.

Not to mention opening their network to you (exponentially increasing your odds of success).


Whether the urge comes from boredom, downsizing, curiosity, or desire to advance in the workplace - career planning is the solution. Because active planning bridges the gap between your current situation and where you want to go.

While skills, education, and experience are important for your vocation, so is being true to yourself. Remember, great careers are built in-line with your internal compass. Not in opposition to it.

Do what you can to make your goals a reality, but don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Keep your chin up, stick to a plan, and be your own advocate.

Work is a big part of life. Do something that makes you happy.

Do you have questions about the career planning process? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.

Together- We Succeed!

Chase & Associates

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