With only a few weeks left in this calendar year, it is a good time to begin building a personal career strategic plan for your future. Strategic plans generally cover a three to five year period and are aspirational—they document what you aspire to achieve (desired outcomes) in a certain time frame.
A good plan should contain a vision statement. This is a short, concise statement of what you want your career to look like in the next three to five years.
Before you begin writing your plan, do a SWOT analysis. You’ve probably participated in a similar activity at work. You list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These can include some personal attributes like being a go-getter, but it might be more useful to focus on the external environment—on what’s out there that can help or hinder your career.
For example, a strength may be that you will complete a graduate degree you have been working toward for the last several years. This may present an opportunity to move into a more desired line of work. A weakness, however, may be that you lack direct experience in that field or that you will need to pass an exam to get licensed or board certified.
Threats include possible negatives. These might be items such as the possibility of your current employer downsizing, or the requirement that you start repaying your student loans. Maybe your car is about ready to die which would make it difficult to get to work.
Once you have concluded the SWOT analysis, you are ready to begin writing your strategic plan. You will need to think about four entries—your long-term goals, your strategies for meeting each goal, a timeline for completion, and some metric that will let you know when you have accomplished that goal.
Let’s assume you are just finishing law school. Your next goal is to pass the bar exam. Your first strategy is to complete the review course. Your timeline will list the exam date, and your metric will be a passing grade.
Or you want to switch jobs in the next two years. Your goal is a higher paying job that is within your field. Strategies may include deciding if, and where, you are willing to relocate, and researching possible employers in those areas. Action items may be developing a networking plan and updating your resume and online presence. When those decisions are made, you should be ready to start the job application process. Again, be certain to include a timeline for each action. Your metric is a job offer within the time frame of your strategic plan.
The purpose of a career strategic plan isn’t to lock you into a certain course or set of actions. Instead, it is to help you take a broad view of what you want to accomplish and to identify the steps needed to reach that vision.
A good career doesn’t just happen. It takes foresight, planning, and determination. A career strategic plan can serve as a blueprint for successfully moving forward.