Don't drift between jobs or settle for second best. Start running your career like a business and maximise profit.
Do you feel that your career has been a series of lucky breaks and accidents? You’re not alone. Too few of us take the time to plan our careers, so we frequently end up in jobs as a result of chance. But taking time to map out a pathway can have significant benefits. It can boost your earnings as well as the enjoyment and fulfilment you get from work.

How do I begin?

Think of yourself as Me plc. As with any business, you will need a business plan. Start by drawing up lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – and be prepared to be self-critical.

Define why you chose certain jobs and what led you to change jobs. What are your main interests and influences? What really motivates you? What financial obligations do you have? Add to this a list of your skills and qualifications, your successes and achievements and, of course, your failures.

What if I still have no idea what I want to do?

Imagine where you see yourself over the next five, 10, even 15 years. Where would you like to be? What would you like to be doing? Be bold. Many people have turned their hobbies into jobs or created jobs by spotting new opportunities. Don’t limit yourself to the next rung on the ladder or a similar job in a similar firm. Your Me plc plan will contain all the information you need to decide how radical you want to be.

I know what I want, but how do I make sure I get there?

Once you know more about who you are, how you got to where you are and where you want to go next, you can complete the jigsaw by figuring out what you need to do to get there. Your Me plc plan will show any gaps you might have to fill. You will probably need to develop new skills, so be prepared to go on a course or training programme. You may even need to work towards a new qualification through a longer course of study. Seeking advice from a career adviser or mentor can be extremely helpful in making your plan happen.

That sounds quite long-term. Is there anything more immediate I could do?

Think of yourself as Me plc. As with any business, you will need a business plan

There are a variety of ways to gain the skills and experience you need: offer to take on a new project or new responsibilities at work; visit another department; see if you can job-swap; shadow another person’s job; meet and network with people who work in areas or for companies that you are interested in.

What about my CV?

One of the most important pieces of kit you will need to execute your plan is your CV. Remember, a winning CV is more than just a historical record of where you happened to be at certain dates and times; it is the sales brochure for Me plc.

Your business plan contains all the information you need to put together your new CV. It will present your achievements in the jobs you have done and how you measured them. It will show how you applied your skills, what effect you had, what you learned and how you are seeking to apply that to benefit the business. It will also be geared to show your suitability for the new job or next step on your plan.

Any other tips

Perhaps the most important thing to recognise is that career planning is not just a one-off exercise when you think it’s time to move job.

It is part of a continual process that involves regular updating of your skills. No plan should be a straitjacket.

You change, jobs change, companies change, and the world changes. The successful career plan builds in the flexibility and adaptability you will need to take advantage of those changing environments, so that you don’t have to rely on lucky breaks.