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Be clever and have a career plan

By Rosa Ritchie | 21 March 2018

It’s never too early (or too late - but we can talk about that here) to begin thinking about what you want your career to be like. Gaining employment is becoming increasingly competitive. The Australian population is more educated than ever, as tertiary and vocational education becomes increasingly accessible and flexible. This is a good thing! It’s so much easier to find your passion and follow it, but it will almost certainly require further education – gone are the days of an employer taking a chance on an unknown quantity when they have a dozen more applicants who have relevant experience. 

Winging it may sound fun, but it’s actually much more stressful than having a plan. If you’re not proactive in directing your career, you may find yourself floating into a field that doesn’t suit you, or wanting to apply for a role you’re not qualified for. It’s never too late to change, but it’s much less stressful to anticipate a problem before it occurs.

man looking through magnifying glass

Assessing yourself

Evaluating your natural abilities is really important. Every individual has strengths and weaknesses, it’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s a fact we all come to terms with. You might be incredibly organised, or you might prefer improvising on-the-go. Do you like reading? Are you good at writing? How are your maths skills? To figure out what kind of career is best suited to you requires self-evaluation. Figuring out what does and doesn’t come easily to you is the most important first step toward finding an industry you’ll thrive in.  

Assessing your Interests

Next most important is figuring out what you actually enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you were the top student in your English Literature class if you hated every second of it. What topic areas do you find fascinating?  Consider what your favourite activities are: do you prefer being indoors or outdoors?? Working with your hands or in your head? Have you ever been so ‘in the zone’ you lost track of time? Prominent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined the psychological theory of flow in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. He explains that flow is an optimal state of concentration, where an individual is challenged by the task at hand, but not overwhelmed by it. Achieving flow on a daily basis results in lasting satisfaction and happiness. You can learn more about flow watching Csikszentmihalyi speak here. Think about times in your life when you’ve achieved a state of flow like that. Those are the activities you should incorporate into your work life. Your perfect job will be a combination of your interests and abilities, and ideally transport you into a state of flow! 

Make some choices

If you find yourself considering a long list of options, create a shortlist for the meantime. It doesn’t mean you’re throwing all your other options down the drain, but you’re directing your focus for a time. From that short-list you simply have to pick something and try it. It might be that some of your goals are more long-term, if that’s the case you have to choose a first step towards them, and for that you need a plan of action. 

make some choices concept

Create an action plan

The worst trap you can set for yourself is setting unrealistic targets. When we set ourselves goals that are too big or challenging for the given time-frame, we give ourselves an excuse not to attempt them. Make a plan that’s achievable and see it through. It might be simply researching possible courses of study, or applying for a job in the field. List down all your goals, big or small, and set yourself a timeline for achieving them. If you prefer to make things up as you go, try making short term plans. Trust your gut instinct, and figure out the next move you’ll make in order to take your career somewhere exciting. 

Re-evaluate occasionally

Priorities shift and change, so it’s important to check-in with yourself regularly and see how your plans are unfolding. If you’re loving what you’re doing, take a mental note of what skill you’re utilising and what other jobs it could be useful for. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing take note of that too! Now you can seek opportunities that are better suited to you. 

self evaluation typed on yellow sticky note

Search our careers

If you’re stuck for inspiration have a browse of career opportunities. Upskilled is committed to helping our students be the best that they can be, by providing high quality and up-to-date training and education. Browsing our courses will give you a strong sense of what industries and roles are open to you, and our Career Pathways page is another great place to start your first career planning session. Good luck and have fun! If you run into any roadblocks, you can chat live with one of our education consultants, who are here to help you out. 

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