The questions often come up during a job interview or performance evaluation. Where do you see yourself in a year? In five years? In 10 years?
For Kirwan Rockefeller, an academic advisor and career coach at UCI Extension, knowing the answers to those questions and having a well-planned roadmap for your working future are vital, lest you end up in a dead-end job.
"Having a plan will give you ownership over your career and where you want to go," he said.
But having a plan takes a little homework. Among the key elements each plan should have is a self-assessment. Identifying what's important to you is a vital first step in deciding what kind of career fits you best. Millennials have this down pat, with research showing what they really want is a career that fits in with their personal values.
So what are your interests? In what areas do you excel? What do you have to offer an employer or business? Where do you want to go in the future? All are important questions that you should ask yourself in creating a career checklist. What's more, free and low-cost self assessment tools are easily accessible online.
Another integral ingredient in any career development plan is vision. "If you don't have a vision of where you want to go, you could very well end up somewhere you don't want to be," Rockefeller said. And don't worry; not everyone knows from the time they are a small child what they want to be when they grow up. Epiphanies do happen. But developing a vision involves assessing your aspirations and dreams, being able to articulate your goals and then setting out to reach them. The steps you take to reach your vision may be incremental, but in the immortal words of Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try."
An often overlooked element in creating a career plan is exploring your options. Who needs the skill sets that I have? Do I want to work for myself or with a team? Large firm or small company? Be curious and investigate different career possibilities. And that means getting to know professionals in trade organizations who can help guide you along the way.
Rockefeller likes to say that people don't hire resumes; people hire people. "Resumes, Linkedin, it's all good. But you have to meet with people and let them know who you are and what you have to offer," Rockefeller said.
That puts a premium on networking, joining professional organizations and attending events that can put you in touch with key decision makers and keep you abreast of the latest developments in a particular industry.
Of course, none of us can predict the future and how that may affect your career. Which means being flexible is key. "Take one step at a time and be prepared for course corrections," Rockefeller said. "You never know where a resume will end up, where a connection will lead, where a link will take you." Changes at home could affect how you view your career and how you view success.
Just ask Jessica Santoro. The Orange County resident had earned a master's degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University and had spent more than a dozen years as a social worker in foster care and adoptions when she decided it was time for a change. So, at the age of 39, Santoro enrolled in a paralegal program at UCI Extension and is now working in her second career with Newmeyer & Dillion, a business and real estate law firm in Newport Beach.
"I always found the law to be interesting and it was time for me to change careers," she said. "You just need to be focused and not be afraid."