Before traveling, most people figure out the most efficient route to their destination. If they hit the road without consulting a map or GPS and just try to wing it, they'll end up wasting valuable time and resources, and more often than not, they'll get lost along the way.
This same concept applies to your career: It will take you much longer to get where you want to go if you don't know how to get there. That's why many career experts recommend taking the time to create a formal "career plan" to guide you through your professional life.
This doesn't mean you have to have everything figured out and follow your "map" exactly. The purpose of a career plan isn't to give yourself concrete, step-by-step instructions, but to establish a general direction toward your own personal career success.
This is especially true for recent or soon-to-be college graduates, who may end up taking a different path than they originally intended.
A piece of advice for college students is to develop and identify their skills, abilities and experiences that employers will find compelling. The benefit of this approach is that it opens up many potential career fields, not just one.
When you're creating your career plan, be sure to account for the following factors:
Value proposition: This can include more than just your relevant work experience, especially if you are just starting your career and don't have much experience. Soft skills (e.g., critical thinking, communication, interpersonal relations), as well as extracurricular activities, volunteer work and nonprofessional jobs, should all be considered part of your value proposition.
Your strengths and weaknesses: Take stock of your strengths, weaknesses and interests, and list them in your career plan, so that you can start to clarify your job goals.
To assess your areas of strength and gaps, you can try conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to help you gauge what could be your potential career.
Goals and timeline: You should have a few general benchmarks to help you monitor your progress. Break down your plan into more digestible steps and action items you can work towards on a monthly or quarterly basis so the process does not seem overwhelming.
You should also possess a diverse skill set to optimise your career options. You can learn new skills during this period of time on platforms which provide this life-changing opportunity such as on the Unschool platform.