Build a Career Plan that Drives for the Best Results in 5 Easy Steps

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The future of employment is right around the corner and about to
rear its ugly head to an already floundering middle class. It’s real
and it’s starting to happen right now. Here’s the inside scoop on what
growing employers really want from their candidates and employees, and
how to create a career plan that fits.

For job seekers, today’s new normal economy calls for a strategic,
multifaceted approach. Whether you are a janitor, administrative
assistant, general laborer, accountant, or sales representative, taking
your career to the next level begins with you. Employers don’t want
do-it-all generalists; they want top performers who specialize in one
field and have systematically built in-demand skill sets that make them
masters of their craft. And they’re no longer looking for bodies to fill
a seat and perform a function. They want an innovative,
forward-thinking person they can call their partner. By being proactive
and taking the initiative to speak up for your professional future, you
are giving potential employers exactly what they are looking
for: accountability.

Most job seekers I interview have the same goal in mind: to secure a
position in a company culture that brings them joy, presents new
challenges, and offers opportunities for career mobility and salary
enhancement. But there’s one factor missing: they have no idea how to
make a career plan that leads to happiness. Left feeling stuck in their
crappy job situation, working professionals often turn to their inner
circle of influence (family, friends, mentors, and colleagues). They
tap everyone around them for career support and neglect the one person
who holds all the cards:themselves.

1. Treat your career like a business and yourself as its owner

An overwhelming majority of the candidates who walk through my door
believe that an invisible force is guiding their future—the economy,
their current boss, the tooth fairy, whatever. But my team’s extensive
research tells us that it’s just not that complicated. The most
successful people (physically, mentally, and monetarily) are those who
recognize that it’s up to them to decide their fate. These people also
approach each new position as an opportunity to add to their skill set
in a way their previous position couldn’t. And they’re constantly
evolving professionally in order to establish a well-rounded background.
If you drop the self-sabotaging mindset that you work for “the man,”
and realize that the choices you make guide your professional
development, it can be incredibly empowering.

2. Identify an in-demand specialty that aligns with your skill set and background

Although they’re undoubtedly well-intentioned, your friends,
relatives, and colleagues aren’t expert career advisors. Too many people
choose occupational choices based on outdated and limited viewpoints.
“It’s the family business and I sort of just fell into it,” or “I went
to law school because my parents wanted me to” are common excuses I hear
all the time. Not enough professionals take the time to explore their
options and find out what type of work makes them happy. Or they’re
hesitant to follow their dreams because they were taught to think
traditionally. Step out of your inner circle and research in-demand jobs
that align with your skills. Take advantage of career assessments,
which never fail to provide some much-needed perspective.

3. Choose educational/training opportunities that support your career goals

Because traditional higher education is a big promoter of
stereotypical high-paying jobs that have been around for ages—medicine,
law, finance, engineering, teaching—many budding minds miss out on new
positions in emerging technologies and marketing, for example. So many
positions go unfilled due to a lack of awareness, which is a shame since
job creation is soaring. For those of you already working, be sure to
keep your skills sharp both inside and outside of work. Very few
companies that offer optional training programs have a healthy number
employees who actually take advantage of them.

4. Build a marketable, online professional brand

It goes without saying that your professional brand plays a
significant role in your current and future success. Employers aren’t
relying solely on resumes and cover letters to fill their next role.
They want to get to know their candidates on every level possible. At
the very least, candidates must create, optimize, and maintain a
LinkedIn profile. But, make no mistake, I don’t support the “build it
and leave it” approach. Keep active by sharing growing trends in your
field, contributing to group conversations, and connecting with thought
leaders you admire. Not only does it demonstrate your expertise and show
that you’re not letting your skills soften, it also shows you’re
tech-savvy and ambitious—traits employers look for in a new recruit. Not
to mention the fact that the professional exposure is in itself worth
it.

5. Map out a blueprint for achieving short-term and long-term goals

If you don’t know what your ultimate dream job is, that’s ok. That
doesn’t mean you can’t accept positions strategically. The key here is
to amass a variety of experiences that build upon each other. Staying at
one job in one capacity is no longer a sustainable career plan. If
you’ve spent some quality time working for a large corporation, try a
smaller company. No matter your career situation or experience level,
it’s important to have a written professional plan you can commit to.

Featured photo credit: Black coffee in a white cup on a table with a computer. via shutterstock.com

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