WHETHER you are struggling to write your resume or preparing to answer tough interview questions, a well-written career plan is a helpful tool in addressing these challenges.

Writing your career plan forces you to think tactically and strategically. It also helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as your natural talents.

A good career plan is essential in the 21st-century working world. With the disappearance of job security, an annual review of your career plan can provide the much-needed impetus to propel you forward and upward in your career.

In writing your career plan, you will assess how you performed during the past year. If you did not do anything new or exciting, you will inevitably think of something to do to break the monotony. If you have made career gains, you will think of ways to consolidate the gain.

After a thorough career planning exercise, some people take bold steps to pursue a degree programme or to make a planned career transition in stages.

Others may decide to make some lifestyle changes including a career shift to enable them to accommodate matrimony or starting a family.

Career planning is not simply about work. Career planning concerns your personal and family issues too.

A good career plan will incorporate three key components:

* an assessment of current skills, values, interests and experience;

* your career vision; and

* a career road map on how you will reach your career goals.

By documenting these components after careful reflection and deliberation, you will have a clear blueprint of your career progression map for the next few years.

Know who you are

Start by documenting your skills and their competency level. List specific examples and actual experiences.

Next, examine your interests and values. In today’s work world, intelligence is not just about logic, language and mathematical competence.

Knowing what appeals to you in your working and personal life is equally important. You are then likely to choose a career path leading to a job you enjoy doing every day. To quote Confucius: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Career tests

Richard Bolles, author of the highly successful book What Color Is Your Parachute?, states that “the key to a happy and fulfilling future is knowing yourself. This self-knowledge is the most important component of finding the right career”.

He adds: “Many people take career tests with the hope that someone can definitely tell them who they are and what they should do. No test can do that. I recommend that people use the results of their career interest tests to stimulate their own ideas about possible occupations.”

In summary, knowing yourself well is important for career success. Undertaking a comprehensive career planning exercise is a voyage in uncharted territory and a journey of self-discovery.

Map it out

For a successful career which offers satisfaction and happiness, it is important to plot your moves in small steps. To quote a Chinese proverb, life is like a game of chess, changing with each move. With small steps, you can make minor adjustments without losing sight of your career goal.

A career planning exercise will bring you face-to-face with the reality of who you are, help you to identify aspirations which are grounded in reality and discover the job or career that will be a good fit for you.

As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, will you be ready for new changes in the workplace? Career planning is about making the right moves at the right time to boost your employability!