3 Career Planning Tips to Help You Reach Your Goals

Job candidates in the San Francisco Bay Area often ask us how important career planning is to their professional development. After all, isn’t being a hard worker with career ambition more than enough to get ahead? Not always. It often takes planning, preparation and goal-setting to find a job you really want and then excel in it.

Whether your aspirations are to find a job within your current organization or at a new company in the San Francisco Bay Area, career planning can help make your goals more attainable. There are a wide range of activities you can include in your plan. Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Find a mentor you admire

Many employers in the San Francisco Bay Area have a formal mentorship program, through which they match experienced veterans with younger employees or those new to the organization. Mentoring allows you to learn from someone who has already mastered a particular skill or walked your planned professional path before you.

To find a mentor, first explain to your manager that professional development is one of the steps in your career planning process. Tell him or her that you’re looking for a mentor and ask if the company has an official program or if there’s anyone in the management ranks who might fit the bill.

If your organization doesn’t have a formal program or you are in between jobs, you’re not out of luck. You can create an informal mentoring relationship. Identify someone you admire professionally, tell the person your career planning goals and work together to develop a program that suits both of you. Most people are flattered to be asked to serve as a mentor. Keep in mind that a mentor can also be a great resource to help you find a job.

2. Join a project team or networking group

Don’t underestimate the benefits of networking. If you’re currently employed, you’ve got a built-in network at your fingertips. Practice on-the-job networking by taking advantage of the opportunities to meet managers in other departments. For instance, if one of your professional development goals is to improve your social media proficiency, volunteer to help the team that’s developing your company’s social media marketing plan. If you want to work on your organizational skills, consider stepping up for an event-planning group. All it takes is a willingness to learn and a little assertiveness to achieve career planning success.

You can also expand your network by getting involved with a professional organization in your community. Larger organizations typically have multiple chapters across San Francisco, the North Bay, Silicon Valley and the East Bay. It’s easy to find groups specific to fields such as accounting and finance, technology, administration, legal or creative and marketing. Getting involved is a great way to hone your skill set, remain up-to-date on industry trends and advance your professional development.

3. Seek out job-shadowing opportunities

If your career planning process involves exploring a new professional path, ask if you can spend time working alongside members of another team. Job shadowing is an aspect of professional development programs at some companies that allows employees to see firsthand what a different position entails and what skills are necessary to do the job. Job shadowing is often part of leadership development efforts. If you aren’t currently employed asking for the opportunity to shadow someone is a way to not only learn what the job is like but also expand your network. After shadowing another worker, you may decide your career path is not the right one for you and that you want to find a job that better suits your interests and career goals.

Have you found success incorporating these activities into your career planning process? Do you have other strategies you would recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.