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Career planning - is it worth it?

Mark Yates considers the importance of doing this in his latest blog

Career planning can seem to be a bit of a dry subject! But there are definitely practical things you can do to actively make it worthwhile to do. This blog will look at how you can structure your career planning. And possibly even make it something that’s interesting to do! But before we delve into the practicalities, its important to consider why career planning is important. There are loads of good reasons to plan! Including; In a recession, developing your skills, experience and qualifications will help you develop in your current role. Or increase your options to look elsewhere! Recruitment still happens in a recession, albert at a lower level. In an economic boom, when there are greater levels of opportunities, career planning will help you change job for the right reasons rather than taking the wrong opportunity just because someone has offered you something! Planning where you want to take your career will give you a greater sense of control and satisfaction in what you are doing and achieving. Planning where you want to go will also mean you can take advantage of any unexpected opportunities. These might be for work CPD, job offers or projects that could give your career a boost. And if you're currently studying, saying ‘yes’ to opportunities can definitely pay off later on in your career. Proactively planning your career will open up all sorts of avenues. Not only could you develop more contacts but you might be able to do things that will spark other interests or opportunities. For instance, dong some blogging for your university or a professional society could open up science communication roles which you hadn’t considered before.

Career Planning is important!

So, lets get on with the practicalities, and HOW to career plan. Within the ‘careers world’ there’s a well established theory called D.O.T.S. - Decision Making - How good are you at decision making? How do you tend to make decisions? Are you a pros and cons list maker, or do you make decisions based on gut reaction? Understanding how you make decisions is important! Its definitely worth looking back at decisions you’ve made in the past to understand this better. It might sound obvious, but understanding how you made good decisions in the past is important to making good decisions in the future! Opportunity Awareness - i.e. improving your awareness of what opportunities are out there. This could be around degree courses, post graduate opportunities, job opportunities or industry trends. This is called LMI or Labour Market Intelligence. Finding out what opportunities are available will help with the decision making. If you are thinking about a new career, degree or qualification its worth finding out how this could open up further opportunities. So, get to know your LMI sources. These ones are worth a start, prospects, EURES, SACU, and Icould. Many career areas will have professional associations or 'learned societies’ that will have more specialist or focussed information. Your school/university careers service or Human Resources department will also be worth talking. They will have a very good picture of how someone in your position could develop their career and the opportunities/paths available. In fact the CIPD (HR professionals body) prduce a regular survey about vacancies, which could be worth a look. Transition Skills - how good are you at coping with change? Does the thought of change excite or scare you? Or a bit of both? As with decision making, its worth looking backwards at transitions you’ve coped with. What went well or badly? How can you plan for the next transition to make it smoother? Things like knowing what a new course or job will involve will help, where you will working/studying. Can you get to know staff or other students starting before you start, through LinkedIn or unibuddy? This planning will help ‘smooth’ the next transition, even if some of the excited/nervousness takes time to settle. Some transitions are a lot more unexpected and ‘forced’ e.g. redunancy. If you have worked on your ‘opprotunity awareness’, then coping with unexpected events if they happen will be a bit easier! Self Awareness - To an extent this element overlaps a bit with the other areas mentioned. Knowing what you are good at, what your strengths are, how well you cope with change or how you make decisions is all part of developing your self awareness. Would taking some psychometric tests help here to get a better understanding of your aptitutes and personality? There are free ones available, e.g. here and here, paid for versions are available too, for instance this one. The University of Cambridge psychometrics centre has some free tests they are developing, which might be worth a look at - they need people to give them a try to build their evidence base! You certainly don’t need to take psychometric tests to know yourself better though! Its definitely worth making a list of strengths and weaknesses at some point, perhaps with help from your best mate, mum, line manager - if you are happy to ask for their help!

So in summary, career planning is really helpful. You don’t need to be looking for an immediate change of job or course. Planning for you may be about how to get better at your current job role. Your current line manager will be impressed when they do your appraisal if you have given thought to how to develop. This planning can help you to get CPD and training at no cost! And if you are a student, knowing how to make the most of your studies, from an early point will make conversations with the careers service far more effective. Lastly, if the unexpected happens e.g. redundancy, a lottery win or unexpected job offers, knowing how these events can fit into your plan will really help. Unexpected things happen, so being in a position to make the most of them will enhance your career and life no end. If this has all sparked some thoughts and some motivation to start doing some career planning, great! There are careers advisers, line managers and HR professionals all keen to help you turn this motivation into some more concrete planning, so do ask for help when the time comes. Mark Yates Careers writers association member CDI register - for qualified careers advisers

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