Career planning… isn’t that something you did at school or when you left college?
If the last time you sat down and thought about your career was when you left education, you’re not alone. Almost nobody plans their career beyond choosing a starting point – and not everyone does even that.
For some, making it up as they go along works out. But if you’re about to change your career or you’ve simply decided you want more from your work, you need to plan your career path.
Why does it matter?
Your career has an enormous impact on your life. It affects your income, your lifestyle and your sense of fulfilment and achievement. That means it’s simply too important to leave to chance. If you plan, you’re far more likely to have a life-changing career you love.
Just think about that for a moment: wouldn’t you rather look forward to work with genuinue enthusiasm … instead of dreading it or viewing it merely as a paycheck to pay the bills and keep some food on the table?
How to find a career you love
Most of us spend a large part of our life at work, so it’s important we do something we enjoy and find fulfilling.
But that’s easier said than done.
You may have started out full of passion for your chosen career but found it disappointing. Maybe you fell into your career without much thought or planning. Perhaps you simply followed in your family’s footsteps or chose a career that pleased others rather than yourself. Or maybe you just never figured out what you love to do.
Wherever you are in your career, whether you’re at the start or have been working for a while, it’s never too late to change and choose a career path that’s right for you.
When to choose a career path
If you haven’t already chosen a career path, the ideal time to do it is right now.
You need to decide what you want so you can plot how to get there.
It’s easy to make the wrong career choices, after all. There may be aspects of your career you simply hate. Perhaps you realise you’ve got a strength or aptitude you’re simply not using so you’re bored or not reaching your full potential.
Whatever your situation, it’s unlikely to change unless you do something about it.
But what exactly is a career path plan and how do you create one that’s right for you?
What is the definition of a career path?
A career path is simply of a series of jobs that lead from one role (where you start your working life) to another (where you want to go). A career path maps a series of steps that take you from one job to another while you build your experience and skills along the way.
Most people change their job 10-15 times in their career, which is why having a career pathway is so important. Your career plan will help you choose the next role so you’re always taking a step closer to where you want to be.
But this isn’t the only purpose of a career path plan.
You see, most of us change career or change direction within our working lives at least once. This is when a career path plan comes into its own.
Because if you’re deviating from your old plan, you need to make a new plan. Far too often, it’s only when a career isn’t working that someone starts to consider a new career. Deliberating can take time when there’s no overall plan.
It’s far easier to spot the signs and change direction when you have a plan that isn’t working out so far.
But of course, a career path plan doesn’t necessarily mean taking a series of linear steps from one point to another.
It could mean you need to work in a range of sectors or take on different kinds of work to achieve your career goal. It could be that your career path involves doing a variety of different industries and roles so you can gain the skills and experience you need.
A career path plan will help you choose each step with confidence so you’re not feeling your choices are random and chaotic.
What is an example of a career path?
Some career paths are managed entirely within an organisation. This is especially true of corporate careers within large organisations where there are definite steps from one point to another.
These are often managed in-house and take into account individual skills, interests and natural talents. Additional training is often provided and HR and line managers help with planning the next step.
However, if you’re unhappy in your general area of work or your sector or organisation, you’ll have to consider managing your own career progression. In fact, even if your career is being managed by the company you work for, it’s always a good idea to establish some autonomy with your own career pathway plan. This is especially relevant in a period where contract work is becoming the norm and redundancy is commonplace.
Examples of career paths
Newly qualified Teacher – Teacher – Head of Department – Deputy Head – Headmaster
Administrative Assistant – Office Manager – Personal Assistant – Executive Assistant
Public Relations Assistant – Public Relations Representative – Assistant Director of Public Relations – Director of Communications
Customer Services & Sales
Customer Service Representative – Sales Rep – Area Rep – Key Sales Account Manager – Regional Sales Manager
Junior Engineer – Senior Engineer – Project Manager – Engineering Consultant
Human Resources Assistant – Human Resources Manager – Assistant Director of Human Resources – Director of Human Resources
How do you decide what to do for a career?
Knowing what you want to do for your career is probably the hardest part of career planning. After all, when you first choose, you’re doing it blind with little if any relevant work experience.
These days there are a huge variety of roles available including many you’ve never heard of before and which don’t fit under the standard categories such as sales, finance, education and media. For example, you could be a bomb disposal diver, an ethical hacker or a private butler. Equally, you could be a speech writer, a buyer or a train driver.
Take the time to explore different career paths so you can find one that fulfils you, meets your financial goals and can deliver the lifestyle you want.
This begins by being honest with yourself.
If you hate being away from home, don’t choose a career that includes travel. If you get bored with routine tasks, choose a career that gives you lots of variety. If you prefer to work alone, don’t choose a career where you spend a lot of time working in a team.
How to decide on a career path
The first step in deciding what career path to follow is doing an assessment of your hard skills and what you enjoy doing. This includes:
- Your academic qualifications.
- Your training (the vocational courses you’ve been on).
- Your practical skills (what you can do).
From here, you can begin the career path planning process.
Step 1: Self-Assessment
Before you can begin to plan your career, you need to assess your skills, experience, personality and goals. This step is often skipped but if you don’t know who you are as a person, you’ll find it hard to select the best career option for you. If you struggle with this, seek help from a career coach so you don’t get stuck right at the start of the process. This will help you decide what you want from your work, which will make the process of choosing your career path much easier.
Step 2: Research
Begin by brainstorming possible career options before researching them. Look at some job adverts too. You can learn a lot from the descriptions of roles you’re interested in and the qualities, experience and qualifications sought. An online search is useful for getting an idea of what’s available but you’ll learn more from speaking to people already in the roles you’re considering. Whatever way you do it, find out as much as you can about all the career paths you’re interested in following.
Step 3: Decision-making
Once you’ve gathered together some information, you’ll be in a position to assess it and decide what you want to do. You probably already have a sense of what is right for you but by looking at the pros and cons of different careers, you’ll be able to get your list down to a few options. This will allow you to be flexible when assessing opportunities that come up through your job search.
Step 4: Search
You’re now in a position to start your job search. You can do this through reading job ads but don’t forget to network and approach employers directly as well. This is where you need to concentrate on getting good at writing your CV, covering letters and interviewing.
Which career path makes the most money
It’s important to remember that while your salary is important, it’s only one factor to consider when choosing your career. It’s well known that those who are happiest in their work are also happiest with what they earn. It’s also true that those who genuinely love their work stand out and often earn far in excess of the average salary in their field.
So, enjoying your work has as much impact on your financial wealth as your salary or potential salary.
That means not choosing money over what you enjoy because it will backfire. If you’re unhappy, you’re likely to spend more. If you’re unhappy, money won’t make you happy.
In fact, your beliefs about money have far more impact on your wealth than what you earn. So if you change your relationship with money, you’re likely to become wealthier anyway.
Still curious which are the biggest earners? These are the top 10 careers that deliver a great salary.
- Brokers: up to £134,000
- Chief Executives: £42,000 to £143,000
- Marketing Directors: £45,000 to £110,000
- Aircraft Pilots: £68,000 to £90,000
- Financial Managers and Directors: £30,000 to £104,000
- Corporate Lawyers: £36,000 to £94,000
- Air Traffic Controllers: £84,000 to £88,000
- Medical Practitioners: £30,00 to £130, 000
- IT and Telecommunications Directors: £42,000 to £84,000
- Bank Managers and Insurance Managers: £30,000 to £90,000
When is the right time to change career?
Very simply, if your career isn’t working for you any more, the best time to make a change is now. If there are factors that prevent this, decide when you’re going to make the change. Book a session with a career consultant so you commit to your decision.
The call to change career can begin as an awareness that you’ve lost your motivation or you’re feeling bored. Sometimes it’s stimulated by a significant change like the birth of a child or a similar event that forces you to reappraise your life and choices.
If this happens to you, listen. Take notice of how you feel and then take action. Waiting won’t change things and could make them worse.
Changing career can feel daunting, but with a good career plan and the support of an experienced career coach, you’ll be able to make choices that are right for you.
Take the ‘What Career Path?’ Quiz
Filling in a career profile will also help you to understand your career needs, aspirations and motivators. A career profile can also help you to determine the type of organisation and work environment that would suit you best. Professional career advice will help you to make the career transition with confidence and ease.
Making a positive career choice is important and therefore it’s advisable to use all available career tools to help you to make your decision.