Millennial and Gen Z professionals may not have the same mentorship and career support opportunities as older generations, and that might leave you feeling lost. For emerging leaders, building a personal career strategic plan is key to finding success in your industry.

What is a Career Strategic Plan?

Most successful businesses use a strategic plan to guide corporate decision-making. This tool assesses the current situation in the company, sets goals and priorities for the future, and lays out means to get from where you are to where you want to be. Individuals can use the same structure to create a personal career strategic plan, establishing their vision and guiding them toward professional success.

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How to Write Your Personal Career Strategic Plan

Creating an effective and achievable career strategic plan requires honesty, clarity, and diligence. Just like the strategic plan for your company, it isn’t a document you prepare and then put away in a drawer. It is more like the GPS map app on your phone. If you take the time to set your destination and parameters at the start, it will guide you around obstacles that arise along the way.

Step 1: Know Where You Are

When your GPS hasn’t found your location, it can easily send you in the wrong direction. The same is true for a career strategic plan. You should start with a careful and honest self-assessment. Take time to understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), as well as your preferences, passions, and personal priorities. There are a variety of self-assessment tools for everything from skill aptitude to personality type. These can guide you toward a successful, enjoyable, and meaningful career for decades to come. You can also request feedback from your current supervisor, coworkers, or colleagues you trust to learn what is in your blind spots.

Step 2: Visualize the Destination

Once you know where you are you can work on setting the destination. This is as much about personal preference and introspection as it is about the market in your industry. Everyone has their own balance of priorities and desires. Visualize what success looks like on a personal and professional level:

  • Where are you living?
  • Who are you with and who supports you?
  • What kind of work are you doing, and how much of it?
  • How big is your bank account?
  • What are you doing outside work?
  • How do you feel?

You may even want to create a vision board, collage, or other visual aid to keep you motivated and moving toward your chosen destination.

Step 3: Consider Your Route Options

The best career strategic plans include what is practical as well as preferrable. In addition to understanding yourself, you must also consider the expectations in your industry. Do you need certifications? Are there specific skills that are in high demand? What is the next big thing for your business? According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, by 2022, more than half of all employees will need “significant re- and upskilling.” Knowing the most valuable skills in your industry can keep you ahead of traffic as coworkers scramble to adjust to a changing work environment.

Step 4: Review Your Route

Goals are just dreams unless they are paired with action steps. These are the turn-by-turn directions to your career strategic plan. Once you know where you are going and what you will need to get there, lay out your plan, step by step. Don’t put too much on yourself all at once and leave flexibility to respond to opportunities at work. These steps may include:

  • Working with a senior manager on a project
  • Attending industry conferences
  • Building a network of colleagues beyond your company
  • Taking supplemental classes or continuing education
  • Asking for performance reviews
  • Offering proposals that feature your strengths

Step 5: Ask for Directions

Your map app can recalculate automatically, but you may not be able to see the road ahead. Building a personal career strategic plan is often easier with an executive coach who can serve as a navigator. A coach can guide you through the early steps in creating your career strategic plan, and help you create a productive action plan and keep your career moving in the right direction.

David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 30 years’ experience helping professionals build and execute their career strategic plans through leadership and executive coachingContact us to meet with David to set your path today.