Career planning is the difference between taking control of your journey and letting it simply happen to you.
Of course, no matter how much your prepare, things don’t always go as planned. Careers are no different, which is why you should make sure to reevaluate your career plan from time to time. As you evolve, so will your goals. To get what you want out of your professional life, you may have to tweak and adjust your career plan regularly.
Here are five questions you should ask when it’s time to reassess your career plan:
1. What Is Essential to Me as I Go Through My Career?
As with any type of goal-setting, it is important your goal be specific. You may have an idea of what you want to achieve professionally, but you can be much more targeted in your efforts if you can articulate that idea clearly to yourself and others.
Keep in mind that professional goals need not be limited to achieving a certain salary or job title. Things such as work/life balance or finding a purpose are equally as important to consider, if not more so.
2. How Does My Current Path Ensure I Will Achieve My Goal?
Once you’ve gotten specific about the goals you want to achieve, evaluate your current situation. Confirm that it supports your goals, or at least serves as a stepping stone to achieving them. Maybe you’re learning essential skills, or perhaps you’re getting the industry experience you need to move on. Whatever the case, be sure you don’t get so comfortable with the status quo that you stop pushing yourself forward.
3. What Is the Next Step I Need to Take to Progress?
Now that you’ve taken stock of your current situation, you can figure out what you need to do to move forward. Your next move may be positioning yourself for a promotion, making an industry transition, or something else. Whatever your next step is, be specific about what exactly you will do, and set a timeframe for doing it.
4. Do I Need to Make Any Changes to Reach the Next Step?
You know what your next move is — but is your current trajectory going to get you there? For example, it’s possible you will need to learn a new skill or earn a new certification to achieve that promotion you want.
Other things may need to change, too, depending on your goal. Does your office environment need shaking up? Is it time to eliminate that long commute? Don’t avoid making the changes you need, even if they feel intimidating. Focus on one critical change at a time, and you’ll be amazed at how much closer you are to your goal by the end of the process.
5. Have I Made the Correct Adjustments to My Plan?
Your career goals and needs are not static; as you evolve as a person, they will evolve, too. The goals you had when you first entered the job market are likely to change several times as your career develops. This is why it is so important to ask yourself these questions periodically.
However, the most important part of your career plan comes down to what you do with the answers. It’s all in the follow-through.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.
Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.