A personal action plan can help you reach goals in many aspects of your life, especially when it comes to landing your dream job. When you make a career-orientated plan, you are mapping out the steps necessary to accomplish your goal.
It may seem like a waste of time at first, but visualizing and creating this roadmap is important. Without a proper action plan, you risk being underprepared for the position you want.
In some cases, you may even delay your professional goals by years because you did not take the time to do the research and create a plan. Having a personal action plan for your career is also good for motivation. In many cases, it takes years of both hard work and education before you are considered qualified for certain positions. By having a plan to reference, you can remind yourself what you are working for and set realistic expectations for how long it takes to reach your goal.
Developing your Personal Action Plan
The first part of creating a personal action plan is either the easiest or hardest, depending on who you ask. You need to identify where you want to be professionally. Going into college, some students know right away what they want to major in and what their dream goal is. Other students struggle with the decision and have vague goals, at most.
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Creating a personal action plan before attending school is a good way to ensure you do not waste your first-year drifting from class to class. Or worse, taking classes that do not actually contribute to your desired career. In some cases, you may even find you do not need any degree for your dream job, and it is better to get practical work experience. There are three tips to keep in mind when you start to develop your personal plan:
- Come up with a specific goal. The more details, the better. For example, instead of saying you want to be rich, specify that you want a job where you make over $100,000 a year. Always try to come up with a goal with measurable metrics.
- Be honest with yourself. A good personal action plan involves challenging yourself, but if you set the bar too high, you are only setting yourself up for failure. Keep in mind, you can create future action plans if you find your dream job is not enough. For example, if you want a career in politics, set your first goal as becoming mayor or governor, then afterwards create a new personal action plan to become a senator.
- Set reasonable time tables for your goals. If you need a doctorate, you cannot cram your schedule full of classes and expect to graduate quickly with the level of knowledge you need.
The bread and butter of a personal action plan are milestones. Milestones refer to smaller goals that you fulfill while on the path towards your ultimate goal. For instance, the first milestone for many students is acquiring a degree or certification. It is important to create multiple milestones long your path. This allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment and continued motivation towards your goal, especially if your action plan spans several years. A common tip for making milestones is to start backwards. Create your final goal, and then research the milestones that will lead there.
For example, say your ultimate goal is creating your own business. Before you create a business, you your first milestone is coming up with a product or a service to sell. When you start researching how to start a business, you will also find other milestone steps, such as identifying your corporate structure, finding employees, renting an office building etc. Keep working backwards, creating milestones for important moments until you arrive in the present.
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As you are creating milestones, you should also come up with what you need to do between each milestone. These details make up the personal steps you follow to reach your overall goal. Once you have these individual actions, you can create a schedule using your personal action plan.
Follow Through and Flexibility
In a perfect world, the moment you finish creating a personal action plan you can start to follow your plan through to success. Realistically, even if you spend days researching and refining the steps in your personal action plan, there are going to be issues you did not anticipate.
Sometimes, issues arise because the market you want to work in changes. A new position may open which is more suited to what you wanted from your dream job, or the base requirements for your ideal job may shift. In other cases, personal issues may change your plan. You could end up taking a year off to work in order to pay off your student loans, or return home to care for a sick family member. It is also possible that as you start working towards your ideal career, you realize it is not actually what you want.
Ultimately, it is impossible to predict all the potential outcomes. If you are unable to meet your milestones in the way you expected, do not feel guilty or use it as an excuse to give up on your dream. Instead, take the time to readjust your personal action plan to reflect these changes in your life. If you need an extra year of school, move everything up by a year. If you want to get married and buy a house before starting your dream job, tweak your existing plan to allow for these new milestones.
If you consistently have trouble meeting your goals, consider making your deadlines more flexible. Some planners set dates down to the day, while other plans use the beginning or end of a month as the final completion time. Do not be afraid to use a sliding system, as some goals naturally have set time limits, while others are too difficult to predict.
For example, many students know the date they graduate because they can reference the school calendar. Yet something more abstract, like coming up with an idea for a business, does not have such a clear end point. If you set too strict with your timeline, you risk forcing yourself to commit to a subpar idea just to meet the deadline.
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