What’s a career plan and why should you have one?

5 minutes
Josh Serlin

By Josh Serlin

What’s a career plan and why should you have one?

One of the key characteristics of the modern workplace is that people rarely work in one company for their whole working lives. That means we can’t expect a ‘traditional’ career path, where we join a business, move through the ranks and retire on a set date.

Instead, we are far more in control of our own careers, able to move jobs to learn new skills or further our prospects, and look for companies that offer good opportunities for training and development. In turn, that means we should think about what we want to do next and why – a plan.

What does a career plan look like?

This is easy – you can organise your plan however you want to. You may be extremely detailed and have a range of targets and measures, all set out in a spreadsheet. Or you may have a notebook where you can have a separate page for each goal and note down your progress towards it. You might just have a note on your phone that you update as and when you need to.

Essentially, you build the practical plan that works for you. What’s important is the content.

What goes into the plan?

There’s an important thing to remember when you start to make your career plan: You can change it at any time.

Your plan is there to help you make choices and decisions at each stage in your career, but it should be flexible to allow for changes in circumstance – or changes you want to make in direction. Don’t feel that, because you have a plan in place, you must follow it. It’s there as a guide and a prompt – not set in stone.

There are many benefits in setting some goals for what you would like to achieve in your working life. These goals can be measured in several ways:

  • The culture and type of workplace you want to work in.
  • The salary and benefits you’d like to receive.
  • The skills and responsibilities you’d like to acquire.
  • The development, training or educational opportunities you’d like to explore.
So, you might want to work in a business that has a diverse and inclusive culture, that embraces hybrid working, that pays your target salary, that supports you to study for further qualifications and that has a structure that allows you to manage a team or get onto a management trainee scheme.

These are all achievable goals, and they will influence the type of companies you choose to apply for, the roles you are interested in and the questions you ask both at interview and once you are in position. They will also help you to manage your personal development inside and outside your role, because you have some direction and thought behind your decision.

Impressing potential employers

Employers are actively looking for motivated candidates. In many cases, hiring managers look for attitude more than skills – and being able to talk about your goals for the future demonstrates a positive attitude, clear thought about your target role and your future and gives them confidence that you will be an asset to their organisation.

You probably already have the beginnings of a career plan in your head. Why not take some time out to write down your goals – including a timeframe for reaching them and the way you will measure them – to help you bring a bit of structure to your career planning and to finding your next role?