When you look forward to what you plan for your life, you may assume that the perfect career will just show up. It is common to be unsure of what you want long-term when you are young. While you shouldn’t put too much stress on yourself to make a perfect choice, having a plan helps ensure you stay on track.
Don’t Assume Your Career Will Take Care of Itself
Some careers have a standard progression. As long as you are competent, you can expect to get regular promotions throughout your career. More often careers provide a series of jumps forward and back, lateral moves, and sometimes entire industry changes. Even if you stay in one place, you may find yourself getting stagnant. It is important to keep your skills sharp, stay up to date on the latest news in your industry, and have an idea about what your next position will be.
Explore Your Options
It is impossible to know what you want to do with your life if you don’t know what is available. The ideal time to begin this exploration is while you are still in college. Internships and career-centered talks will give you an idea of the type of work available in different positions and industries. If you are considering bypassing college because of expenses, take some time to look at your private student loan options.
Private lenders can provide the funds you need to pay for your education and you can choose the provider that offers the best loan terms for your situation. An undergraduate degree will open many doors for you throughout your career. Each promotion and job change will be more challenging without a degree. Dedicating a little time and money now will pay dividends in the end.
Know What is Important to You
When considering career options, it is important to know what you value. For some people, earning the highest compensation possible is their number one priority. For others, a nice work-life balance is more important. It is also important to note that your priorities may change over time, and that is okay. What matters is that you recognize when your priorities change and work to make adjustments to your career that meet your needs.
Create Goals and a Timeline
One mistake many people make is assuming that their career will manage itself. It is nice to assume that as long as you do your work the right people will notice and you will get the promotions you expect. This is a setup for missing out on great opportunities. Setting goals and timelines for reaching those goals ensures that you keep your career on the right path. It is much easier to stay on track than to try to regain momentum lost while others advanced in their careers. Creating SMART goals, or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound is the best way to keep your career moving forward.
Sit down and visualize how you want your career to look in one year, 5 years, and 10 years. Now, break that down to decide what you need to do to make your goals happen. Whether it is returning to school for your graduate degree, working with a mentor to learn the skills you need, or focusing on networking, have a concrete plan in place to advance your goals.