I’m here today to talk about career plans. Kind of a daunting phrase, right? Most people in their early twenties get a little anxious whenever the “so what will you do this summer? What job do you hope to get post-grad? Where do you see yourself in five years?” line of questioning starts. Most of us shrug, explain the little plan we have, then subsequently stop listening to whatever the other person is saying because we are internally freaking out about how unprepared for life we sound.
I’ve always liked to think of myself as a planner, but as of late I feel like no matter what my plans seem to get muddled or I run out of time to achieve all of my goals. When I was driving back to school last week, my parents and I were talking about my summer plans, my LSAT date, my deadlines for law school applications, and my RA role for next year. Toward the end of the conversation my dad said, “you have a lot of big decisions to make.” At that moment, it really hit me that I’m no longer a kid that can just soar through life. I can no longer assume that the next four years have a set path. I have to start making life-changing and career-forming decisions. So, to say the least, I started thinking about career plans, and how to go about making them.
When creating a career plan, you may question whether or not it’ll actually be a relevant document soon. The answer is yes, it’s always yes. You may be asking, why should I stress myself out by trying to put together a career plan? Well, my short answer is that doing it now will save you major stress in the future. Imagine trying to plan your career senior year of college, and realizing that you missed opportunities to do things that would make getting the career you want easier. Start thinking about the major reasons of why this is important.
1. Knowing where you’re going allows you to prepare properly.
When you have a goal in mind, doing things that will help you get there makes it easier to do them. You also may choose to take a college class over another if the class is going to be more relevant to what your plan entails. You may choose one internship over another if the first is more geared toward the career you want. Have a direction, and make decisions from organic opportunities that allow you to get there.
2. You’ll have the upper hand when applying to graduate or professional programs.
If you follow must first ‘why’ you will have a resume jammed packed with relevant information to the programs for which you are applying. This will not only look good to schools, it will also imply that you know your direction, and that applying to law school as an English major isn’t just a fluke.
3. You will not waste your time.
When people just kind of wander aimlessly through undergrad, it’s hard to figure out where exactly they want to go. In order to avoid taking useless classes, or doing an internship that teaches you very little that will be applicable to your occupation, have a career plan. If you do, you’ll feel like you used your four years or so to the fullest capacity.
Once you have a direction, and once you’ve figured out that you want to make a career plan, you need to sit down and map it out. Make your career plan a tangible thing that you can refer back to in order to keep yourself driven and headed toward your goals.
1. Create a timeline.
Consider this a loose outline for your life in the next five to ten years. Sure, it’ll be subject to change, but at least try to sketch out a plan that seems plausible. If you want to be effective with your time, make sure you make a plan of how to use your time well and how long it’ll take you to get certain things done. You also want to know what you’re going to accomplish in each year.
2. Think big picture and small picture.
When planning your career, think about your big-time and long-term goals, as well as the small-time and short-term goals that’ll get you there. You want to be a partner in a law firm by 30? Think about the small things that’ll get you there. Don’t discount even the little, tedious things that seem pointless now (like consistently updating your resume).
3. Prioritize all items included in the plan.
If you know you need to get something done in order to get to your goal, put it as one of the first things you do. If you know you need to get some things that under your belt before you can accomplish another item, make sure to prioritize the things you need to get done first.
Making a career plan is a really important thing. Making your plan now will prove fruitful once your career really picks up. Do work now, be successful later!