Beginners Guide to Career Planning

“How do you plan for a career when you are not even sure what you are good at? “

We have all been there in university/college and your successful relatives promise you to put in a word to the hiring managers of a top company, “Just finish” is all they say. You finish and then they tell you “just finish NYSC” and some start to disappear from there. Then it dawns on you that you have been played.

But what can you do as a graduate? This is where you need to draw up a plan. This is a career plan. Career planning is an ongoing process that can help you manage your learning and development. I used ongoing because career planning is a continuous process and should be evaluated on a yearly basis.

There are 4 critical steps in planning your career as a beginner;

Step 1: Self Evaluation and Reflection
Step 2: Exploration
Step 3: Decision Making and Goal Setting
Step 4: Taking Action and Implementing

So lets take a deep dive into the 4 critical steps in planning your career

Self Evaluation and Reflection: The first step in career planning should be to gather information about yourself to assist in making a decision about a career choice. Thinking about where you are now, where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. Once you have thought about where you are at now and where you want to be, you can work on getting to know your skills, interests and values. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What am I interested in?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • Where am I at now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • What do I want out of a job or career?
  • What is important to me?
  • What are the opportunities open to me?
  • What are the threats to those opportunities?

At the end of this step you will have a clearer idea of your work or learning goal and your individual preferences. You can use this information about yourself as your personal ‘wish list’ against which you can compare all the information you gathered in the other steps. To help you do this here is a template of a Personal Development Plan “A” you can use.

Exploration: The second step in career planning is to explore and research your options. Exploring takes your self-assessment a step further by looking at your personal interests, skills, values, and work-life needs and narrowing down areas of possibilities. Once you have some idea of your occupational preferences you can research the specific skills and qualifications required for those occupations.

  • Explore occupations that interest you and ask yourself how do my skills and interests match up with these occupations?
  • Where are the gaps?
  • What options do I have to gain these skills or qualify for these occupations?
  • What skills do I need?
  • Where is the work?

At the end of this step you will have a list of preferred occupations and/or learning options to gain the required skills for the preferred occupation. To help you do this here is a template of a Personal Development Plan “B” you can use.

Decision Making and Goal Setting: After having completed your self-assessment and explored your options you should be ready to make some career decisions. The question now is how you will decide. Start by comparing your options, narrowing down your choices and thinking about what suits you best at this point in time.

Ask yourself:

  • What are my best training options?
  • How do they match with my skills, interests and values?
  • How do they fit with my current situation and responsibilities?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What will help and what will hinder me?
  • What can I do about it?

By doing this step you will have narrowed down your options and have more of an idea of what you need to do next to help you achieve your career goals.

Taking Action and Implementing: Here you plan the steps you need to take to put your plan into action. Use all you have learnt about your skills, interests and values together with the information you have gathered about the world of work to create your plan.

Begin by asking yourself:

  • What actions/steps will help me achieve my work, training and career goals?
  • Where can I get help?
  • Who will support me?

At the end of this step you will have:

  • a plan to help you explore your options further (eg work experience, work shadowing such as internships, trainings, certifications or more research); or
  • a plan which sets out the steps to help you achieve your next learning or work goal.

Decide which step is relevant for you right now and start from there.You should also continue to evaluate your options and make adjustments as needed.

The above steps helped me in planning my career and transitioning form a computer scientist to a human resource professional and now to a tech community manager. At every point, I did a SWOT analysis of myself, sourced for roles that would enhance my strength and mirror my interests, drew up a learning plan to acquire the skills I was lacking for each role before applying for any job. This has helped me in getting jobs in organisations like Andela , Access Bank Plc and Phillips Consulting.

Hope you found the above helpful. Here is a Career planning tool we use at Andela Nigeria that can help you. All the best in your career planning. Don’t forget to share with someone you know might need this.