You’ve been working for a number of years. You’ve moved rather effortlessly from one job to another and perhaps from one career to another. If you’ve had any periods of unemployment it’s been brief.
Now however, at age 50 or beyond, you find you’re suffering from a malady that affects many your age; your career is just not what makes you happy. In the course of your working life somehow you’ve wandered off the right career road and now you find you’re lost. Your future is somewhat uncertain and you want to get a better handle on the direction your career may be moving.
There is no handy GPS to direct you back to the right road. You have to solve your confusion by developing a strong career plan with a career map leading you out of the wilderness. To get back on course it’s critical to find the road to want to travel along with your destination.
You don’t immediately have to have a final career destination, right down to the street address. But getting into the right zip code will allow you the flexibility to fine tune your career plan as you get closer to your final career objectives.
Here are the four fundamental factors you should review as you design a map to get your career plan back on track.
1. Where are you now? Just like zeroing in on a computer based satellite map there will be a proper distance where everything becomes clearer. Being able to see your entire career path up to this point is important to keep things in perspective.
What factors in a career are most important to you? Where do you want to work? What type and size of an organization best fits your interests? Is self-employment a possibility? Future aspects of the career: salary, promotion how important are they?
How far down the road will you be looking? One year maybe up to three to five years or longer depending on the destination should be how detailed you build your career plan.
2. Self-Assessment leads to self-improvement. Take a close look at you current career skills and resources. Just like inspecting a vehicle that you would be driving on a long trip, your skills and strengths will determine how well you travel in your career journey.
Along with a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses have a trusted friend or family member help you with a personal audit. If you have areas that you can strengthen what additional training and experience what do you need? Take the same approach eliminating or reducing a weakness.
You are unique so draft a short selling proposition that identifies your skills and what you would bring to your targeted career. Focus on the desired industry and job. With this method your energy will not be scattered and you will be more productive.
3. Explore the career landscape. Career research can take many forms from the general to the specific. It’s normally better to gather more information than needed so you can analyze the data and then reject what you don’t need.
Four areas come to mind to get you started:
A. Use information interviews to talk to others working in the proposed career field.
B. From the informational interviews learn what those working in the career read and study. How do they keep current? Build these activities into your career map planning.
C. If possible find an individual working in the planned field who can mentor you and help you assess your progress as you build and work your plan.
D. Keep abreast of industry trends. Go to conferences and trade shows, and use your networking abilities to add to your network. Have a list of career and industry blogs and websites that you regularly visit.
4. Flexibility will get you around roadblocks. With any career planning, one area most overlooked is financial planning. The two areas go hand in hand helping you reach your career objectives.
You must always plan for the worst possible financial situation.
You change careers and you income does not come up to previous levels for an extended period of time. You move to another more promising area and it takes longer than planned to find the right job. A promising career path hits an early dead-end. You work hard learning a new skill only to find the hard-earned technology is made obsolete with new software or the latest gizmo.
Your career plan must be realistic, with small positive steps taken over an extended period of time. Be sure you financial plan allows you the flexibility to continue on your career journey. As you uncover new career information, learn new skills and acquire added experience and abilities you will be in a better position to adjust your plan to overcome obstacles and roadblocks.
Written planning allows you to make rational career decisions. Moreover, you’ll have a method to frequently gauge your progress toward your future career objectives. With a highly competitive job market, you’ll also have an advantage over those who do not have a road map to guide them to their destination.