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It’s never too early to start planning for your future, but you could wait too long. Depending on your personality and circumstances, it may be better to start thinking ahead about examples of career plans and goals for after you graduate college. If you’re in the brainstorming phase and feel stuck, these suggestions can help kickstart you in the right direction to create plans that align with your greater career purpose.
1. Never Stop Educating Yourself
There is a sense of wonder walking out of college — no more lectures and assignments to stress over. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop continuing your education. If you are going into teaching, this, alongside other fields, requires continuing education credits as part of employment.
Thankfully, plenty of resources are available to continue honing your skills, not just in your field but in professional development. Here are some options to start exploring:
- Make a reading list relevant to your study — everything from productivity to chemical engineering
- Reach out to local colleges to see if you can audit courses for free — or pay if you want
- Research online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare and Coursera
- Join local peer groups of people in your industry — libraries are a great place to start
You don’t have to stop as you find relevant education in your career. Feel free to expand your mind into adjacent fields or new ones — it never hurts to continue researching. Even as a seasoned professional, it keeps your work and life interesting. You may even be inspired to consider a career switch, which could lead you into new and exciting territories.
2. Review Interview Questions
Even if you intend on staying at the same job for your whole life, potentially owned by your family, it doesn’t mean there isn’t value in researching and rehearsing responses to interview questions. Not only do they provide you with public speaking skills, but it also helps you reflect on your academic and professional achievements.
It can be a moment to recall your influence in your field, times you’ve impressed yourself and improve your self-confidence while you’re at it. When practicing with yourself or a friend, explore interview questions outside the norm. It’s common for prospective employers to ask why you think you’re an excellent fit for their company.
However, what if they ask you something unexpected to try and get an unrehearsed answer? You don’t want to be caught off guard — so prepare for any inquiry. You’ll thank yourself for learning the improv skills.
3. Boost Networking Abilities
If you’re in college or established in a job, it’s still a high priority to continue expanding your network. It’s vital to remember not everyone in your network needs equal attention — these are not close friends and family you might feel obligated to have lunch with regularly.
So, decrease the burden you feel about having a large circle of acquaintances and focus on making a memorable first impression. Connecting via Facebook or LinkedIn is the key to a sustainable network in the modern age. Even if you connect online to start with, there are still benefits — a study showed 92% of networkers saved time networking online, and 16% said there was less peer pressure.
4. Learn to Have a Work-Life Balance
Even in school, it’s challenging to manage all of your potential obligations. There are clubs, social life, sleep, health and academics — with a job sitting on top of all that if you have time. Embrace college as a crash course to learn how to excel in time management and work-life balance.
Budding professionals often struggle with maintaining this as they strive to impress new employers. With the pandemic raising awareness of overall wellness, including mental health, the ability to have a work-life balance is one of the top qualities job seekers are pining for. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, but here are the top strategies for practicing your work-life balance muscle, even in highly stressful work enviroments:
- Set clear boundaries, including not over-extending social obligations or taking on unnecessary extra responsibilities from an employer
- Prioritize your health, including having a balanced diet and enough sleep
- Schedule leisure time if you feel hobbies and passion projects are neglected
- Practice confidence if you need to ask a superior for flexibility or time off
5. Ask for a Raise for What You’re Worth
To ask for a raise, you first need to feel you deserve it and understand your value to your job. You can practice learning how to ask for a raise while you’re in college or ask professionals for their tips. One of the best ways to enter this conversation with practical expectations is to understand the scope of most raises:
- Standard pay increases are around 3-5%
- Asking for a raise above this standard is a solid way to start bargaining
- Know there are bad times to ask for raises, such as when budgets have been cut
Come prepared for the meeting with a list of your accomplishments and contributions. Be ready to have rebuttals for any potentially low key performance indicators (KPIs) or areas you’re lacking. Bring every aspect of your performance back to why it would benefit the company to pay you more for what you’re doing.
6. Learn Your Ideal Path
This may take thinking to discover, but everyone’s career paths are on different trajectories. Not everyone can be in leadership, just like everyone can’t work on the production floor. It’s important to reflect on what you want your career path to look like and where your skills would be best suited. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Do I prefer to work alone or with a team? Even if I have to lead that team?
- Am I able to cope with stress enough to be in a leadership position?
- How well do I communicate, whether the content is positive or negative?
- Am I quick on my feet and able to respond to task requests promptly?
- Do I prefer to stay busy working with my hands or more time thinking conceptually and discussing bigger ideas?
These will help lead you to where you’ll be happiest on your career path. Every position in every workplace is a good place to be, so long as the worker is passionate about their craft.
7. Save Enough for Early Retirement
Maybe your career path is less focused on your career and more on what you want to do after. If you don’t want to work until the traditional retirement age, this is the prime time to start researching investment and retirement savings options.
Reach out to accountants and tax specialists to discuss what you’re capable of saving and how fast, given your potential salary. As a goal, this is one of the most motivating because you can plan for all of the adventures you’ll have once retirement hits.
8. Become a Thought Leader
Maybe having a traditional job is just getting your foot in the door. Perhaps you want to start your own business or do less work and provide more people with consultation services. Becoming a thought leader can look a thousand different ways, given the possibilities of online media.
You could write a book as an expert in your field, make YouTube videos or start a podcast. Get on the stage at your first TED Talk or become a sought-after guest for conferences in your expertise. Thought leadership is a constantly developing concept and industry, so feel free to expand the realm to what suits you best.
Examples of Career Plans and Goals
Start now to ensure your future has a directive. Having examples of career plans and goals do not work for everyone, as goal-setting is unique and must be tailored to your personality and mindset style for it to be effective. Regardless, these are some starting ideas to propel you toward professionalism and success.