Planning Your Career for the Long-Term

Planning Your Career for the Long-Term

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today stays at each of their jobs an average of four and a half years, and the younger you are, the smaller that number becomes. This means that Millennials could anticipate having as many as 15-20 different jobs over the course of their lifetime!

Of course, this has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, jobs are becoming less and less stable as the norm shifts from job loyalty to job transience. With so much in flux, it’s more difficult now to rely on one company for long-term security.

But on the other hand, this new culture of job-hopping might actually benefit workers. One, it tends to accelerate career advancement by enabling employees to seek promotions at different companies rather than having to slowly climb the corporate ladder by paying their dues. But most importantly it encourages change and reassessment of career goals, which is a very good thing.

Career planning should not happen just once at the onset of your work-life, it should be something that it is revisited often. As you progress and gain different experiences down the road, you should refer to a master career map, but also feel free to take detours or alternate routes along the way.

Whether you’re just starting out, or charting a new course, here are some ideas on how to plan for your journey.

Follow Your Interests Rather than a particular Career

If might surprise you, but the career you want might be different than the career you’ll actually enjoy. Sometimes we get so fixated on the idea of working in a particular industry or profession that we forget to ask ourselves if we truly enjoy it.

Maybe it’s something you’ve pursued for so long that your identity is entangled in it and it’s hard to imagine doing something else. Maybe it’s a career you’ve chosen to please your family or because you couldn’t think of anything else better to do. The point is, if you’re not really enjoying the day-to-day work of your job, it might be time to change jobs or careers.

If you’re unsure which direction to go, you might have more luck by asking yourself what you’re good at and what you’d love to do rather than what you’d love to be. For instance, you might know that you love working with animals, but are unclear about the types of jobs that enable you to do this. With a little research, imagination and professional guidance, you can figure out a range of possibilities – from veterinarian or marine biologist to animal trainer or wildlife rehabilitator.

If you let your interests and natural aptitudes be your guide, it’ll be much easier to find a path that’s right for you.

Create Both Long and Short Term Plans

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, it’s good to have both long and short term plans to achieve it. Be able to clearly articulate your ultimate goal. For instance, I want to be a public health analyst and someday work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From there, break down your plan into short-term goals that could include additional education and training, fellowships and interim positions.

Make a list of action steps that take into account current responsibilities such as family or job. Examples include taking evening or online college courses, networking on social media, reading how-to books on the new career, volunteering on weekends at a site related to the new career and attending conferences.

Long-term goals could include possibly taking a pay cut or relocating to a new city for a job or returning to school full-time. The point is to work out all the details and plan every step beforehand so that each transition goes smoothly.

Stay Open and Nimble

Sometimes our dreams are a work in progress, so it’s important to stay focused on your goal, but not rigid. You may find that you might need to make some minor tweaks and slight detours along the way. Be open to what the journey offers: additional insight about your passions and talents.

Who knows, you could start out intending to be a paleontologist, but find that you’re better-suited writing children’s books about dinosaurs. The point is to have an itinerary that enables you to tread off the beaten path if necessary.

Written by

Nicole Cavazos is a Los Angeles-based copywriter and blogger. As a former contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog, she covered the job market and wrote advice for job seekers.

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