Having a career strategy is important. It can help you manage the direction you want your career to take, the job skills and knowledge you will need, and how you can get them.

Do you need help developing or reviewing your career strategy? We have developed a simple, five-step plan to help you head in the right direction.

The form of your career strategy will depend on the kind of person you are. It may be very structured, or you may just need a few notes in each area – such as knowledge, skills and qualities, what you like doing and the type of jobs that interest you.
Step1:Self-assessment helps you understand your personal and career goals, your interests, preferences, strengths and weaknesses.
Step 2: Consider your career options and identify which available roles fit your interests and abilities.
Step 3: Decide on your career goals
Step 4: Develop and implement a career strategy
Step 5: Review and adjust your career strategy

Step 1 Self-assessment

Life values
Consider what is important to you. We all have different values, needs and motivations. Our work takes up a significant part of our day – usually a third or more – and has a significant impact on other aspects of our life, including our sense of self-worth and wellbeing. This is why it is very important to carefully consider your values and needs when planning your career direction and developing your career strategy.

Use these exercises to help you establish your life values:
• career planning chart
• examining life values
• career/life planning timeline.
• general requirements of a job.
• These exercises will help you decide your essential and preferred job requirements:
• where am I right now?
• motivated abilities patterns
• career questions.

Skills, knowledge and personal qualities

It is important to understand your skills, knowledge and personal qualities so you can match them to jobs you would like to do. This will also help you identify the knowledge and skills you might need to acquire, or the personal qualities you might need, to achieve your career goals. An accurate and realistic assessment of these things is vital to an achievable career strategy.

This kind of understanding is a powerful aid when selling yourself for potential jobs. It will also boost your self-esteem and confidence.

Try to think of your skills in terms of those that are transferable and those that are specialized. Think about how the skills you use in one job could be used or adapted elsewhere. A smart career strategy needs to be flexible and adaptable. So describe your skills in a way that makes them applicable to the widest range of situations.
To assess your skills, knowledge and personal qualities, use these exercises:
• what are my skills?
• what are my job requirements?
• what are my short- and long-term goals?

Career planning barriers

Despite working hard on your career strategy, you might sometimes come up against obstacles or hindrances you were unaware of or had not considered. The ‘Examining the barriers using force field analysis’ exercise will help you to explore those obstacles.

Step 2 Consider the options

Often, the most difficult part of career strategy and planning is finding out what jobs are likely to suit you best. The good news is your choice might be wider than you had realised. It’s important to consider each of the options against your values and preferences. Your options are broadly described in the table below.

Step 3 Decide on your goals

Now it is time to make some decisions. Carefully consider the information you have gathered. If you have completed the ‘career/life planning timeline’, you might have already decided on your career goals (the cornerstone of career strategy) and be ready to enter them on your career planning chart.

If you are yet to decide on your career goals, or you want to revise them, start by considering your career goals for the next two years. What do you want to be doing in two years’ time? What about five and ten years’ time? This kind of thinking helps break down big picture career strategy and planning into manageable pieces.
The SMARTER system can be useful for planning your career goals:
Specific: be as clear as you can and avoid ambiguous statements.
Measurable: so you can see what you have achieved.
Achievable: provides motivation, but also keep your goals reachable.
Realistic: be reasonable and avoid the realms of fantasy.
Timely: create timeframes for completing steps, for example, doing short courses or talking with someone about the skills required for a particular job.
Empowering: make sure your goals feel right for you and help you make the changes you want.
Reviewable: do not set your goals in concrete; be flexible.

Write clearly defined, short statements you can work towards. If you are unable to identify a specific job you want, indicate your goals in more general terms. This is all part of good career strategy foundations. But remember: the more specific you can be, the easier it will be to plan. For example:
plan accordingly.