A few days ago I met my PRSA mentor for the first time. As we got to know one another, she asked about my career goals. I have a pretty good idea of where I want to be in the next five years, but after that I draw a blank. She has recently come to a point in her career where she has met all of the goals she set for herself and must now reevaluate to determine her next move. This conversation made me think about the importance of career planning and consistent evaluation of those plans.
As many students near graduation, the focus is on finding that critical “first job.” For some, the frustration of the job search leads to accepting positions just because they pay the bills. But at the end of the day, is accepting a sales position, telemarketing job, retail post or some other phony PR position going to get you where you want to be in five years? Or 10 years? Or 20 years?
As public relations students, we realize the benefit of creating a strategic communications plan for our client that is based on research. Yet many times, students do not create their own strategic plan for their career, nor do they research their own hobbies and interests to determine which career path would be most interesting and fulfilling. Instead, students set short-term goals that may not lead to job satisfaction and advancement. Before embarking on a job search, it is critical that students create a plan of where they want to be in five years, so they can seek positions that are aligned with their goals.
Isn’t getting a job a goal? Not really. In this case getting a job is more like an objective that will help you reach your overall goal which might be to open your own agency, or be the director of communications for your favorite sports team, or be the vice president of public relations for an international technology firm. The little things that help position you to attain the first and subsequent jobs are the strategies and tactics: networking, joining professional groups and associations, seeking a mentor, volunteering, using social media, working at an internship, etc.
A career plan does not necessarily need to be written, nor must it be shared with others, but both can be helpful. Writing out the career plan can make it more concrete and easier to evaluate. Sharing goals with peers in professional groups or a mentor allows others to give advice and make connections which may assist you in meeting long-term goals.
There is no wrong way to create a career plan and hundreds of Web sites offer tips and suggestions. Randall S. Hansen of Quintessential Careers offers 10 Tips for Successful Career Planning.
Once a plan is in place, it does not have to be static. Many professionals make time to reevaluate their career plans at least on an annual basis (beginning of the year, or around the time of an annual review is a good marker), if not more. Unfortunately, due to layoffs and cutbacks, many PR professionals must reevaluate unexpectedly.
Do you have a five year plan (or any career plan)? Have you already done things to align your search for a first job with the goals you have set for the next five years? Do you think career planning should be included into the curriculum for graduating seniors?