It’s completely normal to feel stuck and wonder if exploring other professional spaces affords you any long-term benefits and inward purpose. If you’re just like everyone else trying to make a living, then switching career paths is a normal shift worth embracing.

There isn’t a definite statistic on the matter, however, experts reveal that the average Joe may switch career paths roughly three to seven times in their entire lifetime.  

That said, there’s absolutely no shame in going back to the drawing board and dreaming up the next vision. After all, even though it’s the journey that counts, mapping out the arrival to the destination allows you to better picture a viable strategy. From Greta Thunberg and Oprah Winfrey to Christina Koch and Mindy Kaling, the most successful leaders we have today are all products of well-thought-of blueprints. 

And while there are no one-size-fits-all plans-of-action to achieve your most fulfilled self in the name of a bustling career, it helps to pattern your decisions after a few guidelines. 

All things considered, here are 4 steps to create an actionable career plan:

Determine what your purpose is and identify
which story you want to tell

The best thing about outlining a career plan is that you’re able to wrap it around what you’re most passionate about. 

What new skill sets do you want to tap into at the moment? What stories do you want to shed light on? What do you feel most strongly about, and how do you fit in the equation? What’s more, when you have a clear grasp of what gap you want to bridge, what do you intend to bring to the table to help make that happen?

Knowing the answers to these questions allows you to better position yourself in the picture.

In fact, in one of his TedTalks, leadership coach and entrepreneur Simon Sinek brightly says, “People don’t buy what you do—they buy why you do it.” And while it takes a great amount of privilege to pursue only matters that fuel your interests, it bears mentioning that Sinek’s words ring even more true today. 

At a time where the execution of ideas has become a lot more feasible, consumers are now more drawn to support brands that stand for something. To a fair extent, individual professionals are similar. When your work is something that allows you to show up as your best self, telling the tale you feel called to be a part of won’t feel like a chore.

Career woman working alone on her laptop

Establish your priorities and reevaluate their order 

When you’ve figured out your “why,” the next best thing to do is to assess what your non-negotiables are. Fleshing out a career plan also means laying out what aspects of your life matter most to you. 

Are you open only to work-from-home arrangements? Are you looking for employment that’ll help you move to another state or city? Is a formal education something you’d like to pursue alongside a job? Are you thinking of venturing into a path that lets you jump on board with your spouse or partner?

The possibilities are endless, but when you know exactly what you want and how you want them, you’re more able to streamline what’s worth going after. 

Furthermore, the pursuit of Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART) goals also becomes a lot easier to do when you’ve factored in other life essentials. In other words, everything else easily falls into place when you know precisely what you want to dedicate your energy to. 

As freelance journalist Josie Cox put it non-verbatim, figure out what your priorities are and see if there are parts you’re willing to rethink and set aside.

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Be specific with job titles and objectives,
both short-term and long-term

Once you’ve tapped into your passions and recognized your priorities, the next best thing to do is to write down your objectives. Creating a smart career objective helps you better visualize what job titles you need to experience to reach your ultimate destination. 

Whether it’s a position at an organization or a salary range you’re determined to reach, there are numerous reasons why people look to climb the corporate ladder. Nonetheless, objectives allow professionals to ascertain how far they are from where they need to be. 

That established, write a comprehensive list of your goals. Depending on the life you lead, your list can look something like this:

  • Get a job in marketing that pays at least $35,000 per year, beginning next year. 
  • Move into an upper-management position in the next two years or so.
  • Gain one year of experience in advertising as a management trainee. 
  • Move to New York as a Brand Consultant Executive with at least three loyal clients in the next five years. 

Ultimately, this list is a combination of short-term and long-term goals. Realistically speaking, how long each phase is depends on both personal intuition and the company you keep—quite literally. This is also why seeking employment at an organization that isn’t averse to hearing your personal goals is crucial, not only to actualizing your career plan but also to help you build character. 

Human Resources leader and Forbes Councils Member Jeff Webner writes in one of his pieces, “While employees will be empowered to pursue career development opportunities on their own, it is important for companies to support these opportunities and encourage them to remain engaged throughout the process.”

At the end of the day, the stints you pursue at companies should feel like a healthy partnership; you help them sustain their operations and they provide you the tools to grow professionally.

Two career ladies talking with each other

Keep learning and be open to change  

Keeping track of your progress is critical in identifying how on course you are. Still, a career plan shouldn’t stop you from taking new risks and braving new paths, should life throw you in a different direction. Although monitoring where you are in your work journey helps remind you of your goals, being open to conquering new heights along the way shouldn’t feel like a bad thing either.

For context, just last year alone, CNBC cites that the virus scare has pushed more than 50% of workers to want a career change, prioritizing flexibility and the capacity to work either at their own pace or in their own spaces. Within that number, roughly 33% of professionals say that they intend to jump industries altogether, owing to the fact that some jobs are more inherently versatile and supportive of their personal aspirations. 

In all of this, one thing is certain: change is unavoidable and jobs will continue to evolve. 

As such, to remain relevant in the business and creative landscapes, we must keep exposing ourselves to new technologies and expanding our skill sets. Whatever path you’re set to take, will yourself to learn new subjects and widen your horizon

The world is yours for the taking. 

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