How To Make a Career Plan and Set Career Goals (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you think about the achievements you desire, the first thing you may need is a solid plan. Career planning can enable you to research your industry and establish specific and attainable goals. Learning the steps for forming a career plan can help you anticipate the next stages of your professional life. In this article, we define career planning and its advantages and explain how to make a career plan and career goals.

What is career planning?

Career planning is the process of determining the next steps of your professional future. You can decide what you want to accomplish in your occupation and establish a list of actions to help you reach your goals.

If you're entering the workforce for the first time, then you might plan your progress to learn new skills in your field and receive exciting job opportunities. Career planning can also be beneficial if you're switching industries or want to foresee your last years of employment before retirement. The trajectory of your career plan may depend on your interests in your profession and how far in the future you're contemplating.

How to make a career plan

Take these measures to help you with how to make a career plan:

1. Explore career opportunities

Learn about career options that may interest you, which can serve as the foundation for your plan. Research companies and investigate the types of positions that are available. You can read job descriptions to gain insight into the qualifications employers require and the responsibilities professionals handle in their roles. It may also be beneficial to consult your friends, family members and classmates about their jobs. Perhaps they work in fields that pique your curiosity, and they can provide firsthand knowledge of the benefits. Make a list of careers to pursue that align with your credentials and passions.

Related: How To Find a Rewarding Career in 9 Steps

2. Identify your desired career

Now that you've identified jobs you're interested in, compare their characteristics to select the best one for you. The attributes you might study include:

  • Demand: The demand for a job dictates its current availability and its projected outlook for the future. It can be essential that your chosen career path can enable you to grow as a professional, so consider the competitiveness of the job market and its potential to keep you employed.

  • Salary: If your objective is to earn a comfortable living, then assess the average salary figures of the positions that interest you. Think about the experience you may require to increase your salary, as well as the benefits packages that accompany the job, such as medical insurance, retirement plans and holiday bonuses.

  • Hard skills: Hard skills enable you to perform the technical requirements of the job, such as operating heavy machinery or using a computer to access a database. Review the hard skills requirement of your list of jobs to ensure you can exercise the tasks efficiently.

  • Soft skills: Examples of soft skills include communication, problem-solving and time management, all of which can enhance the performance of your hard skills. Think about what your desired job may require of you and pick the one where you're most qualified.

3. Chart how to fulfil the career

Create a map that shows you the actions to take for the next phases of your career. You can track your progress, checking off the items you've already accomplished, as well as celebrate the milestones you make. Compile your chart on a calendar or document you can reference when necessary. The steps you write reflect the job requirements and the times for every stage of your future.

What are the benefits of career planning?

The benefits of making a career plan include:

Discovering your work passions

Career planning encourages you to research your field and learn about your professional interests. You can then implement a plan to earn a living by practicing what you enjoy. For example, if you're a recent graduate of a communication program, you may discover your love of training others to speak publicly, so you anticipate becoming a communication trainer for the next phase of your professional life. The information you gather about job opportunities can help you decide which jobs are best for you and your abilities.

Anticipating changes in your industry

Another advantage of career planning is you can enhance your adaptability skills. As you contemplate your professional activities moving forward, you may consider how the industry continues to evolve, which can change your work style. For example, as an advertising specialist, your techniques for reaching your target audience may be different 10 years from now when a new generation emerges.

In your career forecast, plan for a switch in the way you approach your job so you can adjust to new trends and technology while still performing efficiently in your role. If unforeseen circumstances occur, such as a changing economy or competitive job market, then the details of your initial career plan can help you make a new plan that still allows you to accomplish your ultimate goals.

Related: How To Make a Successful Career Switch

Achieving professional growth

Career planning enables you to become a more competent employee as you advance in your industry. With a detailed agenda, you can know when you want to develop new skills, and you can make conscious efforts to achieve a higher occupational status. For example, if you're an entry-level law associate, then you may create a plan to become a partner at your law firm in 10 years. Consider building a strategy for your career to manage your time effectively and achieve prestige in your professional life.

Read more: What Is Career Progression? (With Steps and Tips)

How do I write a career plan?

You can write a career plan by following these steps:

  1. Design a simple format. A simple format can make your career aspirations easy to read and follow. Consider using headings and sub-headings to organise each section by year, for example.

  2. Acknowledge your desired career. Write the name of the job you want and the year you want to obtain it in a noticeable area on the document. For example, you might write it at the top to remind yourself of your goals or at the bottom to signify the result of your hard work.

  3. Discuss the job requirements and qualifications. Ensure you understand the credentials you need for your career. List them on the document and check them once you've satisfied the requirement.

  4. Explain the steps for obtaining the position. Make a numbered list of steps to complete to fulfil the career you desire. You can also indicate challenges you may face as you make progress.

How do you create career goals?

Follow these steps to designate goals for your professional future:

1. Think about your desires for the future

The first step is to discover your aspirations for your career. Visualise your ideal occupational status for the future, including the amount of money you want to earn per year and the prestige of your job title. You might also focus your career goals on professional accolades or levels of work experience. Consider designing your milestone to be as specific as possible to motivate you in achieving it. Ensure it's relevant to your career and reflective of your capabilities.

For example, if you work in the technology industry, then your career objective may be to become a technology architect for a major software company before the age of 40. Your goal has the official job title you're seeking, it represents when you want to achieve it and it's attainable because you have the advanced education and managerial experience. Be certain that you can reach your goal and gain insight into what you may do to reach it.

2. Outline a list of steps to evaluate your progress

The second step is to coordinate a list of actions to accomplish your career goal. You can treat your steps as a checklist to acknowledge what you've done so far and what you can do to yield your desired result. Write the list in chronological order to identify what to handle first. If you've designed a long-term goal, then it may be beneficial to implement smaller milestones to inform you of your progress. You can categorise your list of steps to escalate until you've reached your goal.

For example, you strive to be the news director of the most reputable television station in the country. You dedicate the first list of steps to gaining experience as a producer and the second list to fulfilling an executive producer position at the station. The details of your plan can show you how you've made progress to your goal.

Related: Career Goals: How To Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

3. Implement a timeline for completing the steps

The third step is to designate a timeline for your progress, which can tell you exactly when you can transition from one task to another. Think about how much time's needed to accomplish each step. It's important that your timeline is realistic, so you can remain productive throughout your career. For example, if your objective is to earn an advanced certification, then contemplate how long it may take you to obtain the required work experience and education credentials. Now you can have assurance that you're progressing, and your work toward your goal may seem more achievable.

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