It Is Never Too Early or Too Late To Plan Your Career

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Chesire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. Where do you want to go was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” – Lewis Carrol, from Alice in Wonderland.

Reflecting on the planning at the outset of my own career, it was closer to the advice offered by the Chesire cat to Alice than what I would call a structured process, known as career planning. I at least had the good sense to apply for jobs, which were related to subjects I found to be most interesting in my course, such as animal production, animal health and animal nutrition. As it turns out, this serendipitous approach stood me in good stead because fortunately opportunities opened up before me that I seized and this resulted in a most satisfying career. However, if I was planning a career today, my approach would be much more structured and analytical.

Career planning is not just about finding a job when you leave university, it is a cyclical process that you can utilise at any time throughout your degree and professional life. I would venture to say that most graduates have a short-term mind set when embarking on a career. Below are some suggestions on how to develop a structured approach to career planning.

Build your Self Awareness
Self-awareness is knowing who you are and what you want. Ask yourself what are your interests? What were your favourite subjects in your degree? Do you like working alone or with other people? Do you have an analytical mind and enjoy the intellectual challenge of solving problems? What sort of work environment do you like and where are you prepared to live? Do you require a certain work/life balance? The more self-aware you have, as a result of contemplating the above questions, the better you will understand what holds your interest. This will eventually steer you towards career options that keep you motivated and engaged.

Create a Career Vision
You are well advised to regard your first job as a means to an end and not the end itself. Instead, visualise what job you would like to hold in 7 to 10 years’ time. This will enable you to determine the skills and experience required to attain your “dream job”. Given this context your first job can be seen as an opportunity to develop skills, which will represent the cornerstone of your future career.

Research People Who Do Your Dream Job
Social media, and LinkedIn in particular, provides an excellent source of information to enable you to research how others, who are now in your “dream’ job, have developed their career paths. What jobs did they hold along the way? How much experience did they accumulate? What training and certification assisted them in their progression? Are there unique skills that have propelled people forward faster? The answers to these questions provide clues as to the types of roles that you should consider as short-term options to gain the necessary skills and experience to reach your long-term goal.

Modify Your Vision as Required
Recognise that each person’s career path and aspirations will change over time due to changing interests and as the employment market evolves. Making a practice of consciously evaluating short term opportunities against long term goals will enable you to make sense of each opportunity as it presents itself.

Sharing your goals with family, friends and mentors and using them as a sounding board for future moves is a good idea. They will know you better than most and may see skills and abilities in you that you don’t see yourself and can also provide you advice as a result of their own career experience.

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Belinda Chung - Agribusiness Recruiting - Agricultural Appointments

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