It’s common to experience career uncertainty and knowing how to map out your desired career path might be the solution to avoiding the dreaded plateau.

We all get a little stuck sometimes. But imagine finding a job that makes you jump out of bed every morning and sees you barreling out the front door. Given that 70 per cent of people say their sense of purpose is defined by their work, you can see why this is so important.

So how do you get to that point? It all comes down to getting a bit crafty with your career planning. Upskilling with a course like an online MBA can be the key you need to unlock new employment opportunities.

Why is career planning important?

Embarking on a career change without a career plan is kind of like going to the shops without a grocery list. You’ll definitely leave with something — just not with what you had at the top of your list. Plus, without a plan, it’s easy to forget what’s really important. Going for milk but then forgetting the milk is much like having a set of core values when job hunting, only to lose sight of those values in the face of a less well-suited offer.

Sandy Hutchison, founder of career development company Career Money Life, explains why having a career action plan is an important part of overcoming barriers to career advancement.

“If you’ve got a clear sense of what your future looks like, you have a framework by which you can evaluate different opportunities.”

This future planning should cover both short-term career goals and long-term career goals. Set your sights on where you want to be in 5, 10 or even 20 years and create a roadmap to get there. Hutchison suggests how.

“A career plan helps you think more strategically about the kinds of networks that you build, your industry involvement and the connections you make along the way.”

While career planning is important at any age, it’s particularly relevant when you’re already established in your field and want to make a change. Clarifying your goals helps you make the most of opportunities, whether you’re transitioning into a management position or entering a new industry. For example, if you’re completing postgraduate study like an MBA, it’s important to know exactly why you’re doing it to maximise its value.

Create a career plan in 5 simple steps

So, what’s a career plan?

In short, it’s a strategy that helps you lay out and plan your professional goals. Hutchison explains that everyone’s career plan will be different depending on what they want to achieve.

“Some people have a detailed, rigid career plan and others have a loosey-goosey approach,” she says. “Sometimes, people can make both those extremes work but finding some middle ground is really important.”

Hutchison explains you can easily create a career plan using five simple steps:

  • Explore
  • Position
  • Build
  • Launch
  • Grow

The five-step framework helps you become more deliberate in your career development. Let’s look at each step in more detail.

1. Explore

Who are you? What makes you tick? Where do you see yourself making an impact? What are your career goals?
These important questions will help you uncover your values and passions. They will then lead you towards a workplace or industry that fits in terms of culture and career progression.

2. Position

The next step is to understand your industry and where you might fit. You’ll want to conduct research to understand your sector and find out what skills and qualifications you’ll need to succeed. Then assess your skill set and work out what you can offer and what you’re missing. Take a few minutes to explore the highly desirable skills you’ll learn with an online MBA like those offered by Southern Cross University, Victoria University, James Cook University or RMIT.

3. Build

The build phase of career planning involves developing your personal brand and creating professional assets like a LinkedIn profile. Make sure you engage with relevant communities and start building your professional network.

4. Launch

This phase is about putting yourself out there and positioning yourself for new opportunities, whether it’s seeking a new job or aiming for a promotion. You’ll want to work on strategies for marketing yourself and effectively communicating your skills and accomplishments to potential employers.

5. Grow

A career plan isn’t set-and-forget. Even when you’ve reached your initial goal, it’s important to continue growing and developing to remain employable in a fast-changing market. This process is called ‘career management’. It’s when you ask yourself questions like how to keep your knowledge up to date and whether you need to invest in new skills to stay relevant.

Hutchison recommends that workers continue to develop both hard and soft skills as a way of staying ahead. Soft skills like communication, creative thinking and collaboration are in demand, as are hard skills like technological literacy.

If you’re interested in pursuing a senior career in business, an MBA is a great way to brush up on those skills.

Common career planning mistakes

Now that you’re equipped with the tools to develop an exceptional career plan, you may be wondering if there’s anything you need to avoid. In short — absolutely.

Don’t enter a career just because you’re good at it

Sure, having talent and experience in a particular field is half the battle won. But what if that particular field just doesn’t light your fire?

Maybe you’re a gifted mathematician, but the thought of working with numbers all day makes your heart sink. Or perhaps you’re an amazing painter but would rather work in business.

“It’s not enough to choose a career based solely on your abilities or external pressures,” Hutchison asserts. “Planning prompts self-reflection and makes you find out what really makes your heart sing.”

Don’t neglect networking

“People often underestimate the importance of building networks,” says Hutchison. “Think about who you should get to know in your industry and start building authentic, meaningful relationships.”

Hutchison recommends having a specific networking strategy to make the most of this process. It could be as simple as choosing five people that will help you grow as a person and develop your career.

It’s important for these connections to be genuine rather than transactional. You want to find people who can support you in the long run — who can advocate for you, help you build connections and step in as mentors.

Studying for an MBA is a great way to build a network of like-minded individuals who all share common goals.

Don’t pursue something that doesn’t align with your values

It would be naive to ignore the fact that the majority of people work to bring in an income. Ideally, though, your job should provide you with a sense of meaning and purpose that goes far beyond the paycheck.

Tips for creating a career plan that works for you

Need a hand getting started? Here are a few tips to get your plan underway.

  • Consider an assessment tool to help with self-reflection. There are many online that can help identify your strengths, aptitudes and values. Try, Study Australia Career Matcher or Humanmetrics.
  • Dust off your old performance reviews and remind yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Speak to managers and colleagues about your performance.
  • Reflect on what kind of workplace culture you want to be in.
  • Speak to people in a position or industry you want to enter to understand more about it. Ask how they got there.

By factoring in these tips, you’ll be on your way to creating a solid career plan and setting yourself up for success in the future.

Where to next?

Having a career plan is crucial for career development and success. By understanding yourself, your goals and your values, a good plan will provide a robust framework to evaluate different opportunities.

An MBA teaches hard and soft skills that help launch a fulfilling career. Not sure if it’s right for you? Speak with one of our Student Enrolment Advisors to find out more.

Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor

Whether you’re ready to enrol, or just have a quick question, simply fill out the enquiry form below to speak directly to the university’s enrolment team. They will be able to guide you through:

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