A career is the chain of different jobs and working life experiences that is unique and different for all of us. Somebody’s career can be a like a train, moving in a straight line towards more and more challenging tasks within a single industry. Somebody else might advance at a slower pace or expand their competence to include other industries as well, moving from one expert position to another, perhaps even changing industries. The third person might have several employers simultaneously and be working on many different things at the same time.
The goal of career planning is to form basic models for your potential professional futures. Your own ideas are what matter – not the choices of your family or friends, or whatever is currently hot in the media. The basic models for your career develop, change and become richer as you gain more work experience and grow professionally. The point in career planning is not to make a solid plan covering your whole working life. Instead, the models are there to give you some direction. Career planning is something that you can do constantly.
Why and how to plan your career?
Before jumping straight into the job search, take a moment to reflect on your where you want your career to go and to strengthen your self-knowledge. This will ensure that you are heading in a direction that is right and meaningful for you. By knowing what you want from your job and your professional future, you are more likely to make better choices in your job search, take decisions more easily and lay the foundation for your well-being and meaningful work. Without reflection, you may drift on the basis of external desires or your life circumstances and end up in jobs that are not suitable or motivating for you.
You can and should start to think about your future career while you are still studying. Reflection also often helps you to make good choices in your studies. It's important to find out the fields that interest you so that you can direct your career in those areas. Gaining work experience from your own field already during your studies provides a good foundation for your ideas and planning. It is advisable to gather experience from different places, as spending two or three summers in the same job is not likely to provide you with new ideas.
However, you should not be too rigid in your plans, as you run the risk of missing out on unexpected but good job opportunities. In the right amount, it's worth letting curiosity lead the way in your career and trying different things. By keeping your mind and eyes open to different job opportunities, you'll tune your brain to spot various job opportunities and at the same time allow for chance.
So instead of rigid career planning, leave room for chance and keep an open mind to unexpected career opportunities. The key skills for finding career opportunities are curiosity, perseverance, flexibility, optimism and risk tolerance. You should openly seek opportunities to learn, experiment and expand your understanding. In the face of adversity, try to persevere. Embrace new opportunities. Seize opportunities and start somewhere, even if your destination is not clearly defined.
Career plans tend to become clearer as you gain experience, develop your skills and learn about your work and yourself. You should start by focusing on what speaks to you in your career, what you are good at and what you are passionate about. Let your career be different from that of other people!