Feel like you’re plodding through life instead of soaring? Wish you could feel excited about your job? Fed up with being told what to do and want to be the boss instead?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions then it’s likely that you wish you were doing something different for a living. Whether you are just taking the first steps into the world of full-time work or you are in a role that doesn’t feel quite right for you, it is important to recognise that career planning can make a huge difference as to whether you succeed or fail in getting that dream career you are looking for.
A 2015 SEEK Survey found that 38% of Australians were preparing to change their jobs within 12 months. Look around you, 1 in 3 of the people that you can see are currently thinking about a career move. History has since shown that only 23% of those career thinkers actually made the move to another job but it has also shown that out of that 23%, 88% were pleased that they made the move. These statistics emphasise why career planning is so important, we change jobs more often in our lifetimes than our parents did which means that at each step up the career ladder we will have more competition.
So how can you plan to climb the career ladder to get your dream career? Let’s find out.
Step 1. Understanding yourself
If you’re thinking about moving along the career path you need to understand as much as you can about two important factors:
a) Your existing employable skills and attributes. Take time out to do an employable skills audit, making sure that you carefully consider your personal attributes and your work, study and life experiences. You should also think about how you can improve on these existing skills and what your current interests are (these may well be different to those you had when you started your present job).
b) Your reasons for seeking a job change. People change jobs and roles for any number of reasons but the main ones are: for career progression, following a negative experience, due to external factors (e.g. job rationalisation) and for better working conditions (including, but not exclusively, pay).
Step 2. Exploring opportunities
Once you understand your skillset, your motivation for change and your interests you can start to explore the opportunities. There is a balance in career planning between setting unrealistic goals and going for the easy option. For example if your dream is to be a ballet dancer and you are 52, with no experience you might be disappointed. However research and exploration might reveal that a top ballet merchandising company is looking for managers.
The areas that you need to explore before starting your career planning include:
a) Employment opportunities - The bottom line here is that you need to find out if there is an employer in your field of interest out there who will pay you for your identified skills. There are a broad range of job searching resources available. You should also look at the broader picture for job growth in Australia
b) Entrepreneurial opportunities - If there is no current employment opportunity in your field of interest, you should do some research and even talk to a small business advisor about opportunities to start your own business.
c) Study opportunities - Whether you’re looking for employed prospects or are thinking about starting your own business, study, especially online study is one of the best ways to ensure that you have the required skills and qualifications to make your next move.
Step 3. Plan to reach goals
You are unlikely to be able to step straight into your dream job and this is where career planning comes in. The analogy of a career ladder is a good one; you may have to take extra steps before you reach the rung you are after. Remember as you write your plan that the best goals are SMART ones, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. Draw a diagram if that helps you to visualise the steps and make sure that each one, be it study, volunteering or a related job, fits in with your dream job goal.
Step 4. Put your plans into practice
Making a plan is one thing but motivating yourself to make that plan happen is entirely another. If you feel your progress slowing it might help to recognise the emotional barriers to employment change, which are:
a) Telling yourself that the jobs aren’t out there.
b) Worrying about proving yourself in a new job.
c) Having concerns over lost job security.
d) Being uncertain of enjoying a new job.
Once you understand which barrier is stopping you from progressing with your career plan it is easier to take steps to counteract those thoughts. For example if you are worried about not enjoying a new job, do some more research and try to meet existing employees, or recall a time when you did make a change and enjoyed it.
We won’t all make it to our dream career but the good news is that if we start the journey, along the way alternative ideas, offers and opportunities are likely to come up. Look back at the questions at the beginning of this article; do you want that to be you for the rest of your working life? Of course you don’t. Take some time out now to work through our career-planning advice and get that dream career you have been imagining for a while. Remember, the only way to eat an elephant is a little bit at a time.
Not sure what your dream is to begin with? See if our career personality test helps
And then see what Australians really think about their careers with the Australian Careers Survey Results