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April 8, 2016
The GPS of Career Success
A GPS doesn't hem or haw. You input where you need to go, it maps the route and delivers. If you miss a return, it doesn't yell or stress. She simply tells you to make a U-turn when possible.

Nothing will help your career as much as some real career planning...a map of sorts. Choose a route, stick to it, and make U turns sparingly, but whenever necessary. Even if you are happy in your job, an annual route check is essential. You want to be ready at all times. Here's what you need to do:

Every now and then, spend some time evaluating where you are. If you know where you are now and where you want to be, you can draw up a route from one point to the next. From your strengths and weaknesses to likes and dislikes, self-evaluation can help guide you as you make a decision about your next career move. A well-done self-evaluation will help you determine whether or not a business and a job are a good fit. There are three areas you’ll want to focus on:

Strengths and weaknesses: Knowing your skill set and where you truly excel can help you determine the range of your job search. Likewise, knowing where you fall short can encourage you to focus on those areas and improve.  

Likes and dislikes: Knowing whether or not you prefer a small company or a large corporation can go a long way in helping you determine the kind of company you want to work for. The same goes for location and travel — do you prefer to stay where you are or do you want to move to another state or country?

Wants and needs: Aside from salary, look at what you want from a company or position. Do you need to be challenged on a daily basis? Do you want to be able to spend more time with friends and family? Knowing what you want and what you need will eliminate some careers and guide you toward the right option.

Market Evaluation
You’ve already determined where you excel. And during your self-evaluation, you should have spent some time looking at your work experience and skill set. Don’t limit yourself by a job title; instead, focus on your experience and how it can translate to different job postings. At different times, different job openings may be difficult to find. Once you’ve decided on a career path, conduct research and be persistent and creative in your search.

It's important to see where job growth is expected, especially in the career fields that most interest you. Besides knowledge of the job trends, conducting this research will allow you to adjust and strengthen your position and your pitch about why they should hire you.

Directly contact companies who meet the requirements you’ve laid out during the self-evaluation and follow them on their various social media accounts. These channels are becoming a popular avenue for sharing information about job openings.

You should also spend time looking at the experience and education of those who are currently in the position you want at various companies. Are you up to par? Knowing what it took a pool of people to get to where they are to where you want to be can help guide you in the right direction of making sure you meet the standards.

Goal Setting
Career planning is all about goal setting. Similar to traveling, you have a beginning point, an end point, and the path that gets you from beginning to end. Make sure that throughout your career planning, you have short-term and long-term goals. Whether it’s taking a new class or establishing 10 new connections, make sure you have goals in place.

Where do you want to be? This is the most important question of your career planning efforts. Make sure you have a clear position or career in mind before planning; otherwise, your road map will be bumpy.

When you know where you want to be, you can see where different milestones take place and plan a way to overcome those. If you need a specific degree or certificate, or even more years of experience, you’ll be able to set sub-goals for each.

Career planning can help you find the best route to achieving your career goals. If it’s a promotion you’re after or you want to make a career change, self- and market evaluation can help you become more successful in your search. Goal setting is perhaps the most important part of career planning. Knowing where you want to be and how to get there is what setting up a plan is all about. 

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Erica Bell is a small business writer who focuses on topics such as business loans and credit card processing. She is a web content writer for Business.com, a directory that provides advice on topics including small business credit cards and payroll software solutions.
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