Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is not as straightforward as it used to be. These days, it's not uncommon for people to switch careers multiple times, work in a field that is completely different from what they studied in college, or create a completely new job or business doing something that started as a hobby. So how do you know whether you're on the right path, and not just jumping from position to position? And how do you plan for and realize your goals when it's likely they will change over time? Here's how to plan for a successful career, even when the future is uncertain.
Find your Strengths:
Knowing something about who you are and your abilities is the first step to being able to put your gifts to good use, which is, of course, a major part of finding and developing a career that fits. Are you good with people or do you prefer working independently? What are your special skills and aptitudes? If you're unsure, there are many assessment tools available online that can help you uncover some of your strengths and weaknesses. Another great option is to ask a few trusted friends for some honest feedback on what they can see you doing at a high level, and what you need to work on to get there.
Know your Mission:
Most successful companies have a clear mission and vision to guide their actions; individuals can benefit from this practice, too. Knowing your purpose in addition to your career goals is extremely important because, while your career path may change, a purpose is something you can pursue in any situation. Take some time to reflect on what you see as your purpose in life, and what you hope to accomplish at a deeper level through the pursuit of your career.
Plan for Success:
Once you have a clear picture of what's most important to you and what you have to give, it's time to create a plan of action.
- Outline your goals: Are you most interested in earning more money, helping others, or becoming an expert in your field? Don't be afraid to write down your most ambitious goals and to be honest about what you really want.
- Prioritize: You're more likely to reach your goals if you focus on only one or two at a time. Before you begin breaking down how to reach your goals, prioritize your list.
- Find the next step: Decide on a timeline for reaching your priority goals, and outline the main steps you will need to take to get there. Then, figure out the very next, small, concrete step you need to take to move forward. Put it on your calendar, do it, and repeat.
- Reflect and adjust: Schedule time in the future to revisit your goals and assess your results on a regular basis. If the goal has changed or you're not making progress, make adjustments as needed.