1. Your goal
Planning a career move is much like mapping your route for a road trip. If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t decide how to get there, but if you do know where you are going, you’ll get there faster. Goals like “Go back to school” are too general and not specific enough. You have to translate these goals into specific statements such as “Enter a college accounting program by next fall” or “For the next two months, search for work in the computer securities field. You have to know exactly what you want to do and when to go about it.
2. Plan Backwards
One of the best ways to move forward is to plan backward. Start by asking yourself if you can accomplish your goal today. If you can’t why do you think that is? What do you have to do first? Is there something you have to do before that?
Keep thinking backward like this until you arrive at tasks you could do today. This will help you to attain the goal’s starting point.
For example, if your goal is to take a two-year business administration program, could you start today? No, you have to be accepted to the program first. Could you be accepted today? No, you have to apply first. Could you apply today? No, you have to decide which post-secondary institutions to apply to. Could you decide today? No, you have to do some research first, and so on. I could do this all day but you get the point.
Don’t worry if your list of things to do becomes several lists.
3. Deal with your fears and expectations of yourself
Look over your list of things you will have to do to achieve your goal. Do you believe that you can do it? If you have doubts, take some time to think them through first.
Are your expectations realistic? Have you succeeded or failed at tasks that were similar to this before? What can you do to improve your chances of success this time around? For example, if there is a good chance you will not follow through with your plans, you have to ask yourself why.
Are you a professional procrastinator? If so, what can you do to make sure that you will keep going until you reach your goal? Are you afraid of failing?
If so, work at improving the skills you will need. Or test the waters by taking an evening or distance education course before you sign up for a whole program. If you are having trouble identifying your fears or figuring out how to deal with them, talk to people you trust. Ask for their suggestions, but always make your own decisions.
4. Put your plan into action from to-do list
By this stage, you probably have more than one list of things to do and, if it is necessary, some plans for avoiding or dealing with potential problems. Now you need to put them all together into one comprehensive plan. You must list tasks in the order in which you must complete them and set deadlines for the completion of any major plans. Successful career planners keep themselves on track using a variety of methods, such as:
marking tasks on a monthly calendar (noting important dates such as application deadlines or action plans)
making weekly or daily lists of things to do and cross off tasks as they are completed
using a computer program to create timeline charts which give you your time limits for task completion
using a commercial appointment book or a notebook; even a palm pilot with a new page for each day or week.
Use whatever methods work best for you. If it is absolutely necessary, ask a friend to check on your progress occasionally or question you on your successes because you are more likely to get things done if you know you’ll be asked about it.
Now you have learned all that you could want to set successful career goals. If you follow the things in this section and have remembered the previous sections, you will do just fine because there is nothing to hold you back now.