6 Essential Steps for Successful Career Planning

Choosing the career you will likely have for the rest of your life can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Many people end up in a career they didn’t choose or one they don’t excel at, making every day a challenge. No one expects you to live the cliche “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Even those that follow their passions work hard.

Career planning is more than choosing a career and going with it. It is a multi-step process that takes everything into consideration. Your goals are just as important as where you are starting, so don’t let your lack of experience keep you from achieving what you want.

Here are 6 steps for successful career planning:


Success in a career is reliant on more than skills and education. Your personality plays a prominent role in finding the right fit for your career path. Some people think that success means having a corner office and an assistant, but many others would be extremely unhappy in a job like that. A personality test for a career is more than a horoscope. It is what defines you.

In high school, you likely took an aptitude test, and it gave you a list of possible career choices when you had no idea what you wanted to do with it. While you may not be the same person you were then, you can retake an aptitude test online to find a starting point for your career planning. Whatever the test says at the end, you are free to make your own choices.

Not all tests online are evaluated scientifically, so be cautious which one you choose and take the results with a grain of salt.

Job Research:

After you have a few ideas of what you want for your career, it is time to research your options. You will likely have a field in mind but not know exactly where to start. Your skills and personality are only a portion of what goes into a successful career. From your goals list, find a higher-level position that you want to achieve and research the starting roles.

Even though some may hold the same position, they may have started out differently from their colleagues. A corporate job often begins with an entry-level position in the form of an internship or assistant. A job outside the office may begin with an apprenticeship or customer service/retail position. No matter where you start, there is always a ladder to climb.

Career Exploration:

One of the best options to get answers to your questions is to speak to a professional in the field you want to pursue. They will have the inside scoop on what it’s like to work at their position and how they got there. Remember that not every career path looks the same, but it can give you an idea of what to expect.

If you are currently enrolled in school, consider taking classes related to your chosen field in addition to your general education. This can give you the chance to try it out before you commit.

Internships or part-time jobs are excellent windows into your potential career. They can show you what it will be like day-to-day and give you first-hand experience to help you later on. Employers know they are hiring people with little to no job experience for entry-level positions, so your limited expertise could give you a leg up on the competition.

Making a Decision:

When making your decision, it is essential that you weigh the pros and cons of each career path. The positives and negatives of salary potential, travel opportunities, work-life balance, and more are critical parts of turning a job into a career. Writing down your possible paths with each attribute in a list will help you visualize your future.

After you have finished listing the pros and cons, rank your options from best to worst. When searching for a position on a job board, this list will help you narrow down your choices. You should also consider a list of alternatives to your dream career. The obvious first steps might not be available, but a lateral move can still be in the general direction of your goals.

Make a Plan:

Once you have your career path in mind, what are the steps you need to take to put you on the way to success? Research the requirements for the entry-level positions and compare them to your qualifications. Some jobs require 2 or 4-year degrees, while others may require a postgraduate degree or no degree at all.

The next step is to figure out what your hurdles are and how to overcome them. Is college difficult due to finances, or do you have family obligations to take care of? These can be stressful questions, but there is nearly always a solution.

Job Search:

Use the keywords you’ve discovered to search for your job. If you are unable to find a job that matches your skill level or education level, you may be looking too high on the ladder, and you need to start smaller with entry-level positions.

Be aware that just because a job is listed at entry-level on the posting doesn’t mean it is intended for someone directly out of school with no training. It may be the lowest position at that particular company and, therefore, entry-level.


Do yourself a favor, and don’t compare your success to anyone else. Only compare yourself to where you started and what you have accomplished. Every person has a different life experience and opportunities, so don’t let that get in the way of your success. Have your resume and cover letter ready to go before you start looking.

Identifying your goals and making a plan to get there is the first hurdle, and you can start today. Career planning requires you to learn about yourself and make specific goals. You may go through the first few steps multiple times before you find the right path, but the only thing that matters is that you are true to yourself.


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