Adopting a Long-Term Career Plan

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The reality is that professionals transition between jobs and careers far more often now, so having a long-term career plan is essential. Career seekers who keep busy by scouring the Web for open positions and sending out resumes can get bogged down in the seemingly endless procession of day-to-day tasks that will hopefully land them a job. After a layoff, it's easy for professionals to scramble for something else in their field. Instead, taking a breath to reassess and further develop your long-term career plan can inject new energy and purpose into your job search. Here are things to consider about your future as a professional that will help you stick to your chosen career path and succeed.

The Five Year Mission
"Where do you see yourself in five years?" is a familiar interview question. Although most questions are best answered with specific examples, this one seems more open-ended and general. When you ask yourself this question, the trick is to think in specifics. Your response should revolve around identifying and developing specific core skills that employers are always looking for. Match these with your own skills and determine which ones you need to concentrate on and develop. Core skills encompass areas like time management, teamwork, communicating, organizing and planning, problem solving and technology. Take a look at your field and the projected long-term trends. For example, there may be an emerging technology or computer skill that will greatly enhance your value in the eyes of employers.

Map Your Progress
One way to determine where you want to be is to examine where you've been. Take time to reflect on former positions and record interviews you have been on and how they match your career path. Are there turns that you made away from your main goals? If so, how did they work out? Sometimes diverging from a career path can reveal hidden strengths and new possibilities. Consider making a timeline that shows where you were in your career and how it corresponded with your level of satisfaction. Chart a future course with realistic short term goals you intend on achieving. For example, is there an educational or training course you can take or a professional you can meet who can help you further your career?

Get Personal
How you spend your personal leisure time and your hobbies can reveal a lot about where your true values and skills lie. These days, occupations often arise from personal passions. Consider Warren Brown, a lawyer who was prosecuting civil cases in health care fraud. Although he liked his job, he didn't feel fully engaged and devoted his limited personal time to an all-consuming passion for baking cakes. Today, he runs a successful bakery called CakeLove, with a companion Web site. Developing a long-term vision of where you want to be can often spring from your personal pastimes. Explore if the activity fits with who you are, what you really enjoy, and what energizes you.

Renew Relationships
Former colleagues can remind you of the reasons why you originally committed to a career path and friends can become effective motivators. Check in with old bosses and people you encountered in your field. They can act as mentors and are great for bouncing ideas off of in terms of where you see your career headed. Networking can also be educational because professionals open up and reveal their mindsets and how they arrived at their current positions.

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