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‘Long-term thinking is your biggest competitive advantage.’

Wise words don’t you think?

When it comes to your career, no words could ring truer!

You see for effective career development, your career mindset must shift from the ‘nine-to-five’ (task-driven mindset) to one that reflects a long-term perspective (an objective-driven mindset).

Career planning is the top way to do this.

So how do I start planning my career? That’s a great question and thankfully there’s a lot of information on proven processes to creating a career plan.

You begin with self-assessment and exploration. This includes exploring your skills, your options, and your career preferences. Alison Doyle puts it very simply in her article on the career planning process.

‘In order to evaluate the suitability of work options, it is important to know both who you are as a person and whom you desire to become as a professional.’

Self- assessments are fun! Yes, I put assessments and fun in the same sentence. It’s a chance to explore your values, interests, skills, preferred working style and with some assessments, you are also able to discover occupational options available for you too. Who doesn’t like to learn about themselves?

There are a number of self-assessment tools available to help you with this:

  1. Interest/Skills Questionnaires: These are simple documents with a number of questions that help you identify your skills and/or interests. They aren’t very comprehensive and usually don’t provide a report but are good enough to start with.
  2. Informational interviews: This doesn’t sound very self-assessment like however, interviewing people you’ve worked and interacted with on some professional level might give you some insight on your skills and abilities.
  3. Psychometric Career Tests: This is my favorite! It can also be the most comprehensive tool among the three(depending on the type). Psychometric Career tests can be tailored to measure a number of things eg capability, aptitude, and personality. When choosing a psychometric test, ensure to choose one that has reliability and validity for the best results. Here are two of my favorite tests: I like CareerFitter. The CareerFitter test generates details about your personality at work: a description of your optimal work environment, your strengths, your preferred management style, your work personality traits, and more. I also like the Self-Directed Search test based on the RIASEC theory developed by John Hollands. The SDS test matches your aspirations, activities, and talents to the career choices and educational opportunities that fit you best.

As you go through the process above you will identify your strengths, passions, skills, working preferences, areas of interest as well values.

Highlight all your findings and begin to look for themes and possible career outcomes. From here you will move on to market exploration as the second step in the career planning process. (I’ll talk about this in the next article. :-))

There is a myriad of affordable resources available to help you in this first stage of your career planning.

I hope this article has been useful in summarizing what this stage looks like and some of the tools available for you.

Maryann Somba

Curriculum & Instruction Lead

Ongoza Careers

Career Kickstart KE is an affiliate of Ongoza Careers an organization seeking to better future economies by supporting young African professionals.