Date posted: 17/07/2020 5 min read

The benefits of forward career planning

Developing a career plan and thinking into the future can shape the decisions we make today, define our personal brand and set our direction for tomorrow.

In Brief

  • Recognising your skills and values are important in setting your career goals
  • Career plans are vital to career success as they can help you set realistic expectations and goals
  • Having a plan can help you navigate change and obstacles in your career

Hays Accountancy & Finance Regional Director, David Cawley believes crafting and maintaining a career plan is vital to career success, as it prepares professionals to anticipate and navigate change.

We speak to Cawley to discover how self-awareness and an understanding of what success means can help professionals build their personal brand and make informed career decisions.

Recognise your strengths and interests

Research has shown that reflection is a key component to success, and has been found to increase productivity and performance.[1]

Cawley says that engaging in self-reflection is the first step for professionals to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are, as well as where their interests lie.

"Understanding what your strengths are enables you to devise a plan of action on how you can find a role that allows you to do what you're good at, or even what you're passionate about," Cawley says.

Rather than just focusing on strengths and capabilities, Cawley also encourages professionals to identify areas that they may need to develop and improve.

Although some may consider their weaknesses to be their downfall, Cawley says that understanding areas for improvement provides individuals with an opportunity to find ways to grow and reach their full-potential.

"Identifying your strengths also enables you to understand where you may be a bit weaker, which gives you an opportunity to find ways that you can develop in that area," Cawley says.

David Cawley
David Cawley

Identify your career options

A report published by Dell Technologies and authored by the Institute For The Future stated that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't even been invented yet.[2]

With an ever increasing number of career choices and opportunities for professionals, Cawley believes one of the major benefits of career planning is understanding job market trends as this can help identify what career options are available.

"Plan and think about where you want to get to in your career. Explore the opportunities that are around you in the world, and ask yourself whether that career aligns with your interests and skills," Cawley says.

Reviewing career information, researching companies, and talking to professionals in the field are other ways for individuals to explore the possible career paths that are better aligned with their strengths, interests and career goals.

"Start researching to find out what markets are in demand, and work on understanding how to pitch yourself so when you go into the market, you can say with confidence, 'I am looking for work, and know that my skills are in demand because I have done my research and understand what a commodity I am in the marketplace,'" Cawley says.

Cawley encourages young professionals to cultivate a professional network as another way to sound out new opportunities, build up a reference bank and make an impression within professional circles.

"There's lots of opportunities now that are made available through referrals or word of mouth that never hit the job market. So having a strong personal brand with friends, colleagues and others is very important for finding new opportunities as you are able to communicate your strengths and interests in potential roles."

Consider factors other than your work

Career planning shouldn't just involve professional opportunities.

Cawley reminds us we must consider where we're at in our life in general as, although work and career are important factors in our lives, they're not everything.

Rather than just focusing on the impact that a career move has on your career goals, Cawley counsels professionals to also consider their personal situations, including family commitments or geographical location.

"It's very important to balance every component of your life, especially when looking to create a career roadmap, as your decisions impact those around you. Thinking about how your decision may affect your family, or whether you will be required to move for your career, are some key things to consider when planning," Cawley says.

Create your action plan and set your goals

Once you have identified your career options, and have considered potential outcomes and barriers, the next step in career planning is to set realistic expectations and timelines.

For professionals who may be approaching career planning for the first time, Cawley recommends thinking of it like a road trip - you will set goals, find landmarks to see, plan stops and - for some - have an ultimate destination in mind.

"I think it is important to understand where you are at now and where you would like to be in five years' time. Try and understand what skills you are missing from your current skill set, and look at whether there is specific training to help you upskill and get to where you want to be."
David Cawley Regional Director at Hays

"Career planning is about exploring your options, and choosing a career path that is the best for you. Having a plan enables you to assess how you're tracking over time, get back on track if you lose focus and always be edging closer to achieving your goals," Cawley says.

Research has shown that setting SMART goals help professionals focus their attention and resources on what is most important to them so that they can be successful in achieving their priorities.[3]

Cawley says that setting realistic goals and timelines are one way that professionals can stay motivated to continue to get to where they want to be in their career. He recommends setting specific, time-bound goals and steps to accomplish your plans.

"I think it is important to understand where you are at now and where you would like to be in five years' time. Try and understand what skills you are missing from your current skill set, and look at whether there is specific training to help you upskill and get to where you want to be," Cawley says.

"Break down what you are hoping to achieve into smaller goals, so that you are able to stay motivated along your journey."

Meet with a career consultant

Regardless of what stage you are at in your career, the advice and expertise of a career consultant can help you improve your employability and reach your career goals.

Cawley encourages professionals who may be having a tough time making a decision about their future, or finding ways to implement their career plan to seek the help of a career consultant.

"A good recruiter or career consultant is one that is able to give you really honest feedback and help you understand how you can use your strengths and capabilities in a role that aligns with your goals," Cawley says.

"Reach out and have a conversation about where you think you want to get to and seek some advice on how you might go along that journey."


Related Content

New guide for CAs seeking to plan changes to their career

The Career Transition toolkit provides the information, advice and support that Chartered Accountants need to make a smooth transition to different stages of their career.

Read the guide