For university students looking toward graduation, the future may be uncertain. The idea of navigating the job market can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for and what you are qualified to do with your degree. Career planning can help you establish a direction and set yourself up for success in your career.
What is Career Planning?
Career planning is the process of establishing your career goals and creating a roadmap of actionable steps to achieve them. With career planning, you set aside time to evaluate what your career aspirations are, based on the interests and skills that you have, then outline the steps you need to take to make your goals reality.
You may be able to land your dream job as soon as you graduate, or it might take a few years to work up from an entry-level position to the role you desire. Either way, career planning can help you gain direction in your job search and establish a path to achieve the job of your dreams.
Benefits of Career Planning
Career planning has many benefits for university students. First, career planning equips you with a big-picture perspective to guide you as you finish your studies and embark on your career. Once you have a career goal in mind, you can make sure your courses and extracurricular involvements are helping you gain the skills, knowledge, and experience you need to qualify for your ideal position. This vision will also help you stay motivated through your everyday workload and challenges along the way.
Career planning will also prepare you to recognise and capitalise on strategic opportunities to help you achieve your goals. When you know what you are aiming for, you can evaluate opportunities that arise, such as internships, extracurricular activities, and job openings, to determine if they will help you achieve your goals. This focused direction will also help you avoid investing time in irrelevant activities or getting stuck in an unfulfilling job.
Finally, establishing a plan for your career will help you gain confidence as you prepare to enter the workforce. Since you know exactly what you hope to achieve and what skills and experiences qualify you to get there, you’ll be able to market yourself effectively and make a positive impression on recruiters and potential employers.
How to Plan Your Career
Career planning requires time, effort, and focus, but it’s a worthwhile investment. The first step is to define your career goals. If you’re in your first year or two at university, you may not know exactly what your dream job is yet. If you’re not sure, take some time to explore your interests. Join different clubs or volunteer with organisations. Take classes in a range of subjects to figure out what you enjoy.
Along with your interests, consider the skills and talents you already have and what kinds of jobs would play to your strengths. Your university’s Careers Service can be a great resource for helping you understand your options, establish a career direction, and learn how to approach the job market with your disability in mind.
Once you determine your career goals, evaluate whether your education is adequately preparing you to achieve them. Perhaps you might need to switch your major or add on a minor to supplement your skills and knowledge. Or maybe you should plan to get a graduate degree in order to access better opportunities in your field.
Then, consider all the options available to you to determine a plan for landing your dream job. Are there internships you should apply for or activities you should get involved in to gain more experience while at university? Is there an entry-level position you’re qualified for which will allow you to work your way up to your ideal role? Evaluate all of these potential opportunities to put together an action plan for achieving your goals.
Tips for Career Advancement
Once you have established your career plan, there are plenty of actions you can take to increase your success as you enter the professional world. Here are a few tips that you can implement to advance your career:
Present yourself with confidence. The way you dress and present yourself goes a long way in building your reputation, starting with the job interview but continuing each day at work. Use every workplace interaction to demonstrate your confidence, integrity, and reliability, which will help you gain the respect of your colleagues and superiors.
Focus on your strengths. Especially for students with disabilities, it is important to identify your strengths and emphasise those to employers. Even while acknowledging adjustments you may need, don’t be afraid to ask to take on responsibilities that play to your strengths and will help you advance in your career.
Attend networking events. Networking events are available both in-person and online and are great opportunities to build relationships with professionals in your field who can connect you with job opportunities.
Look for sponsorship opportunities. A sponsorship (or mentor) is a strategic partnership with a person in a senior leadership role in your organisation. Your sponsor (or mentor) can advocate for you and help you advance in your career. Especially for employees with disabilities, a sponsor can help you access leadership opportunities that might not otherwise be available to you.