A career is more than a job, and requires careful planning. Careers require specific skills, interests, experience, training and education. You can’t wake up one morning and be a doctor or a librarian without training and education. Research and career planning are the keys to preparing for your desired career. Whether you are a high school student or a mid-career professional who wants a career change, writing a career plan will help you achieve your goals.
Draft a career plan document, starting with the title at the top of “Career Plan for (your name).” The document can be as simple or detailed as you like, but should include main sections for a specific career goal; the requirements to achieve the career goal; a list of your current skills, interests and abilities; and a realistic plan to achieve the career requirements.
Choose a career. Read about careers in the areas you are most interested in, and the industries that employ people in those careers. For instance, if you love math and science and want to work in those areas, read about careers and industries that require strong math and science skills, knowledge and aptitudes, such engineering. Choose a field in which you have interests and passion and are willing to work to achieve the requirements for the career.
Set a career goal, such as “become a chemist” or “become a paralegal”. Write “Career Goal” as the first section under your career plan title, and write in your career goal statement after it. For example: Career Goal: Become a Licensed Registered Nurse. Elaborate on your career goal if you have more specific ideas, such as “My career goal is to become a paralegal and work for a large law firm in downtown Chicago.”
Find out what’s required of people in the career you have chosen by researching. Start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*NET OnLine, which provide information on job duties and educational and training requirements for hundreds of jobs. Look for current books about the career you want. High school students can find a lot of career information in their counseling offices or college planning centers. Find out what knowledge, skills, abilities, work activities and training and education are required. List these in a section titled “Career Requirements’ under your career goal section on the career plan document.
Create a section on the career plan under career requirements and title it “Self Assessment” or “Current Career Assets.” List all of your current skills, abilities, interests, training and education. Use resumes, school transcripts and work records to help you list your current job skills and level of education. Personality tests can help you understand your personality type. Use this list to compare to the requirements list to identify the steps you need to take to prepare for your chosen career.
Create a section on the career plan under current career assets and title it “Next Steps” or “Career Bridge.” List all the things you must do to make your career happen, such as “earn an associate degree in paralegal studies” and “seek internships at local law firms.”
Written by Heidi Cardenas, a creative writer and human resource professional, from Chicago.