As I sat down to consider my advice for planning your career in the best way, the words of Dr. Stephen Covey resonated with me. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey advised to “begin with the end in mind.” What does this mean and how do you begin with the end in mind? Let’s take a look at how this quote goes hand in hand with successful career planning.

Step 1: Understand yourself

The first and most important step in preparing your career plan is to identify your:

  • skills
  • abilities
  • interests
  • preferred work style

Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Complete honesty in your self-assessment is a must. Look at your skills as well as your personality before you set goals. These can help you develop a career plan that best suits you. Aim high and be ambitious, but also be realistic as you prepare your long term career goals.

Step 2: Begin with the end in mind

Think about what you want to achieve from your new career.

Are you looking for:

  • More money?
  • Better working hours?
  • A new location?
  • A flexible schedule?
  • Remote work?
  • Travel?

When you’re brainstorming how to ensure you’re satisfied in your future endeavor, think about how you can best balance what you want and what you don’t want. There will be facets of any career path that won’t excite you like the rest. You’ll likely have to tolerate some situations and circumstances that will frustrate you. But find your rhythm and identify what drives you to determine the best path forward.

female leader in healthcare

Begin with the end in mind.

Your chosen career will probably have some twists and turns as will your planning process. However, choose your career for the path you see yourself on 5 or 10 years from now. Salary is of course a major motivator for many people, but it should not be the sole driving force behind your career plan. Look for career options that can teach you transferable skills and ultimately get you to where you want to be and  – even though it may take some time to get there.

Step 3: Make it manageable

The greatest challenge with a big, scary goal—like “I want to be a VP of Revenue Cycle in 5 years”—is that it can seem daunting.

Instead, break it down into smaller, more manageable goals. For example:

  • What are the immediate steps that will get you closer to that goal? Think of small smart goals as stepping stones.
  • What skills do you need to add or improve and how can you learn them? Books, internships, taking on responsibilities before they are officially yours to take, and asking members of leadership what you need to do better or differently can help add those much-needed skills.
  • Who can mentor or help you along throughout your career development journey? Make contact with people who are already working in the role you want to achieve. Find out how they got there and plan what steps you need to take.

Creating these more manageable goals is essential to your success. Use your answers to these questions as your roadmap to a successful and happy work life.

Be flexible

Career planning is an ongoing process that can evolve based on new skills, new goals, and new mindsets among other things. Your career plan should be flexible enough to allow you to consider other options when you experience a shift in such things. If you have identified your key strengths and weaknesses and researched your target markets, the right opportunity may be just one search away.

people waiting for job interviews

Next steps

You’ve investigated your skills, your values, and your goals. Now it’s time to implement your plan!

Begin by preparing a strong, up-to-date resume that highlights your strengths related to the position for which you are applying. Check out this post with tips on how to build an effective resume.

Then, pound the digital pavement with your new resume. Check out job postings to companies that you would like to work for, and ask for feedback on unsuccessful applications. Make adjustments to both your resume and your search strategy as needed. No matter how long your career search takes, refer back to your plan on a regular basis. Stay grounded in what you’re trying to achieve, but don’t be afraid to let your plan evolve.

Enjoy the journey. The adventure is in the pursuit, not in the achievement. What will be your next adventure?

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