It is important to set career goals for yourself, even from the time that you graduate from college. These goals will act as stepping stones that will help you build a successful career that you enjoy. The goals can also help to prevent you from making serious career mistakes. It's important to keep in mind that your first job may not be your dream job, but it's a step toward reaching your long-term career goals.
Determine Your Ideal Job
First, you need to decide what your dream position is. This is your long-term goal. You may want to work up to a manager or director position or to become a vice president. You may want to write a book or go into business for yourself.
Regardless of the position, it's important to have a clear goal in mind. This will make planning out the process and the steps you need to take to get there much easier.
How Will You Get There?
Once you've decided on your ideal career, you need to determine what steps you need to take to get there. For example, if you want to move up into a position as manager, you may need to get an MBA. If you want to open your own business, you will need to gain experience in that field, then you will need to find capital to open the business. Seeing these specific steps can help you map out a career plan.
It may also be helpful to set monthly, bimonthly, and annual goals for obtaining your dream job. For example, a monthly goal could be to read a book about your chosen field, while a bi-monthly goal might be to sign up for a business class. An annual goal might be to obtain an internship in your chosen field.
Don't Let Missteps Discourage You
After you graduate, you may find that you do not enjoy working in the career field you chose. Sometimes your major may not have been the right fit for you career-wise. It may not be as enjoyable as you want or leave you time for the things that are the most important.
If this is the case, you may want to completely change fields. That's OK. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go back and get a degree in a different field but it is not the most cost-effective way. You may be able to just take classes to get extra certifications or the specific things you need in order to qualify for another job.
You may also apply for an internship in the field before you transfer over to it, to make sure that you are choosing the right field for you, and not making the same mistake twice. You should also consider the job security of the new position or field. Sometimes a riskier job will pay off, but you need to prepare for the additional risk when you with.
Build Your Resume
Most people work for several different companies throughout their career. If you are looking for more upward mobility, you may want to consider looking for new jobs every few years. Whether you advance through the same company or you advance by taking positions at different companies, building your resume and adding new skills and areas of expertise will help you eventually land your dream job.
When you switch jobs your benefits will also change. Keep in mind that it's important to stay on top of your health insurance and life insurance, especially as you get older. It is best to have your life insurance independent of where you work so that you will have continuous coverage, no matter what your current employment situation is.
Plan for the Future
If you do find yourself switching jobs or companies, be sure to keep your retirement in mind. This means you should continue to contribute to your 401(k), IRA, or another retirement vehicle.
No matter what direction your career takes you, you need to make sure that you are planning for your future, as well. As you take on more financial responsibility, you will need to be better prepared to handle the financial emergencies. This means you should build your emergency fund at the same time you are pursuing the other skills you need to complete your career path. Careful planning will make it much easier to reach your career goals, and eventually land that dream job.
Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.