Do you feel bored and stagnant in your career? Are you lacking purpose and motivation at work?
Feeling trapped in a position where you aren’t achieving your full potential will leave you frustrated and miserable in your career, especially since it’s estimated that the average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. So if you find yourself in this unhappy position, career planning could be the key to advancing your career and achieving fulfillment at work.
What is Career Planning?
Career planning is the process of defining your career goals and establishing a strategy with concrete action steps for achieving those goals. It’s never too late to invest time in career planning, whether you’re just embarking on your career, you find yourself reconsidering your career direction due to unforeseen circumstances, or you simply feel stagnant in an unfulfilling job.
The purpose of career planning is to provide you with a clear plan for career advancement. Career advancement can look different for different individuals: it could take the form of a promotion from an entry-level position to management, transitioning to a new occupation, or taking on assignments with increased responsibility.
Benefits of career advancement include earning a higher salary, gaining knowledge and expertise, exploring your interests, and receiving exciting new opportunities. Read on to learn about some of the ways career planning will help you advance your career.
Establish a Vision
The first step in career planning is to define your career goals. What do you hope to accomplish in your career? What interests you? What inspires you? Set aside time to think through these questions and articulate what goals you would like to achieve in your career. To approach it from a different perspective, try developing an honest response to the question, Where do you see yourself in five years?
The vision you establish here will influence every career decision you make from this point on. When you create a career plan, you are outlining a roadmap to achieving success and fulfillment in your career.
If you lack motivation at work, establishing a long-term goal to work toward will provide you with a fresh perspective on your everyday job assignments, as well as providing direction for transitioning out of a stagnant position if needed. Maintaining a big-picture mindset will also help you recognize and take advantage of strategic opportunities for advancement when they arise.
And if achieving your long-term objective seems overwhelming, you can break your career plan into a series of short-term goals to make the process seem more manageable.
Capitalize on Opportunities
Once you have developed a career plan, you will be equipped to recognize and take advantage of the advancement opportunities available to you. There are a couple of ways you can intentionally seek out and discover opportunities to advance your career with your vision in mind.
Explore Your Options
First, as you create your career plan, research the advancement options available to you within your company or industry. You should begin discussing potential career growth opportunities during the job interview process, but you can continue to find information through HR, colleague referrals, and digital research.
As you develop a strategy for career advancement, pay attention to the path taken by others who have been in your dream position and the opportunities they were presented with. This can help you decide what kinds of opportunities you should look out for.
Keep in mind that your career advancement path may not move directly upward. Especially if your current position does not offer any direct paths for advancement, it can be wise to make a lateral move within your company or industry to a position which offers better opportunities for advancement.
Look Out for Internal Opportunities
After you’ve established your career plan, continue to stay aware of internal opportunities that become available. Set aside time each week to review new internal job listings and evaluate if any fit with your plans for career advancement. Also, keep in touch with your HR representative and let them know that you are open to new opportunities.
Another benefit of career planning is that it provides inspiration for self-improvement and the development of professional and leadership skills. In order to achieve your career advancement goals, you should be constantly challenging yourself to gain more knowledge, refine your skills, and make a positive impression on those in leadership.
Advance Your Education
Consider if earning another degree will help you achieve your career goals. In many fields, those with graduate degrees earn higher salaries and have access to more opportunities. While going back to school does require considerable time and effort, evaluate whether this would benefit your career. And research your organization’s policies, as some companies may assist with tuition fees or other training costs.
Even if you don’t need to get another degree to achieve your career goals, you should still be regularly investing time in learning. This might take the form of refining your professional skills, obtaining online certifications, or keeping up with industry trends and new technology. The effort you put into maintaining your professional development shows your employer how much you care about the company and your career.
Request More Responsibility
As you seek to advance your career, demonstrate your work ethic and dedication to your manager by requesting more challenging assignments. Tell them about your plan for career advancement so they understand your goals and can advocate for you along your journey.
Taking on new responsibilities allows you to prove that you can handle a more challenging workload and are a good candidate for a leadership role. In order to be successful, make sure to communicate respectfully with your manager and continue to perform your normal duties well in addition to the extra projects.
Conduct Yourself with Confidence
A critical part of career advancement is building a positive reputation for yourself, especially in the eyes of those in authority who can help you advance. Thus, you should constantly conduct yourself in a manner that demonstrates your character and confidence.
One way to make a positive impression is through your outward appearance. Make sure to always dress professionally to show that you are reliable and take your career seriously. Other qualities you should seek to exhibit in your behavior at work include self-confidence, honesty, integrity, and initiative. Prove to those around you through your actions that you bring value to the organization and are worthy of career advancement.
Building beneficial relationships within your organization and industry is a crucial part of career advancement. Career planning will provide you with direction and motivation in seeking out these connections. Keeping your long-term career vision in mind will also give you confidence as you develop these relationships. Here are some strategic ways you should build connections to advance your career.
Assist Your Colleagues
A simple starting point in building connections within your organization is offering to assist your coworkers. Through your willingness to help out a teammate, you show yourself to be a team player and foster positive relationships with those you work with.
Not only should you support members of your own team, but you should also volunteer to assist other teams or departments within your organization. In addition to building a positive reputation around the company, this gives you the chance to learn new things and witness how other departments function. These experiences can help you make more informed decisions regarding your own career path.
Look for Mentorships
Find an individual who has held your dream position and build a mentoring relationship with them. They can give you advice in making decisions along your own career path and help you avoid mistakes. Statistical research has found that employees who have a mentor receive higher compensation and more promotions than those who do not have a mentor.
When looking for a mentor, make sure to choose someone you respect and connect with. Depending on your field and career aspirations, consider working with multiple mentors with different areas of relevant experience.
Find a Sponsor
Similar to a mentorship, a sponsorship is a strategic relationship with a person who occupies a position of power in your company. A sponsor can help you achieve your career advancement goals by advocating for you and helping you build relationships with powerful people in the organization. They can also help you develop the skills required for leadership roles and provide opportunities for you to advance. According to 2019 statistics, employees with a sponsor are paid 11.6% more than those without a sponsor.
Attend Networking Events
In addition to making connections within your organization, attend in-person and online networking events to build relationships with other professionals and leaders in your field. Networking events give you the opportunity to market yourself and demonstrate your skills and work ethic. The colleagues you connect with through networking are often great resources for letting you know about potential new job opportunities.
Volunteer in Industry Organizations
Another opportunity for building connections in your field is getting involved with industry organizations. This involvement demonstrates your dedication to your field and your big-picture mindset about your career. Look for associations within your industry where you can volunteer outside of work hours, broadening your knowledge and experience while making connections and building a positive reputation in your field.
No matter what stage of your career you find yourself in, career planning can help you refocus on your goals and understand the steps you need to take to achieve them. Career planning enables you to create a vision to motivate you along your career journey, equips you to recognize and capitalize on strategic advancement opportunities, and motivates you to improve yourself and build advantageous relationships with professionals in your field.
For more information and tips on achieving your career advancement goals, check out the infographic from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences below.