Updated: Jul 13
Whether or not you (will) live your dream job boils down to your answer to this question: “Do you have a robust strategy for your career?”
Have you created your ideal career path?
If you’ve ever wondered why others are always looking forward to their working days while you wake up groaning and hoping that the day will be over soon, then it’s time for you to rethink your whole career strategy - or create a new one.
There are strong relations between success and good planning.
People with the right career path know what they can bring to the market. They are also among the tiny percentage of people with crystal clear and articulate goals. These two components, along with solid strategizing and planning, are the keys to a successful career. They are your success insurance.
To achieve your deepest, most exciting career ambitions, one needs to take a step back from their day-to-day life, look at the bigger picture, and ask themselves the question, “where do I want to be in 10 years?”
Armed with the right strategy and plan, everybody CAN have a fulfilling career. All you need is a little time for a career strategizing session, develop a plan, and build the will-power to stick to it over sustained periods (grit).
To help you jumpstart your journey in realizing your dream career, here are some actionable steps that you can do to create your ideal career path.
01. Identify Your Career Options
Knowing your options is essential before you make any decision or plans for the future. This is also true if you are planning your future professional career.
Start by doing a self-assessment to build up your plan. Know what type of person you are. Review your interest, skills, and the value of your goals.
1. Leverage Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability
The right way to weight out your options against each other is to leverage the desirability, feasibility, and viability framework.
In the desirability circle, gauging whether or not the market will welcome what you’re offering, of course, finding a product-market fit will take a series of iterations, experiments, and a lot of work. Still, it is a critical component to consider when selecting and prioritizing your ideal career path.
In the feasibility circle, take an inside-out perspective and honestly assess each of your capabilities’ strengths. This could be programming, copy-writing, sales, or anything.
In the viability circle, ask yourself whether or not a career path makes sense for you to do. Can this career path sustain me financially? Will I be enjoying my work? Or whether this role be too time-consuming?
The intersection is the representative of your ideal career. Now let’s see how to find it.
2. Make a List of Your Skills
Now, let’s make a list of your skills! Maybe you are good with words, or you can speak in front of the public without breaking a sweat, or perhaps you can draw a flawless building perspective while finishing your lunch. List them all.
You can prioritize your skill for the professional development of your career. Decide your best talent, then compare your gift with the others to make sure you know about your real passion skill and what is needed to reach your goal. Choose the ones that are essential to reach your goal.
3. Make A List of Your Interest
Aside from your skills, you have to take your interests or hobbies into account. The items can be anything from gardening to playing classical guitar to mountain climbing to tinkering with technical stuff. The idea is that the list should contain everything you would still do even if nobody pays you.
The reason behind this is to use something that you like as the starting point of determining your future career and the kinds of industries that you will choose. This is also applied to the kinds of jobs that you choose.
Not everybody wants to be an executive director of a company. Some individuals might prefer to be free and take freelancing jobs instead of the more stable occupations working in an office and climbing the corporate ladder.
If you have to do something that you don’t enjoy for the rest of your life won’t bring you any satisfaction. Your life would be a living hell.
4. Find the Sweet Intersection
Now take the list of your skills and your interests and find the intersection between the two. Your ideal career should be doing something that you love, and you are good at it. In other words, your skill should match your interest.
But what you want to find is not just any intersection. You should discover the “sweet” intersection. Your ideal career should also be something that has a considerable market. Or to say it in another way, there are people who would pay you to do it.
For example, even if you love to watch TV all day and are good at it, is there anybody who would pay you good money to sit and watch TV all day?
5. Make a List of Potential Challenges and Solutions
Armed with a list of things that you love, are good at, and have a sizable market, you have a clearer picture of your future career. But the only predictable thing about life is that it’s unpredictable.
You should also think about the challenges, such as competitors. Many of your competitors have the same skill sets as you do. Plan the solution to face the potential problems that will come along the way.
After finding the possible solutions, you can formulate the best choices for you. Knowing this will minimize the risks that you might come across along the way.
6. Find Your “Why”
Nobody lives his/her life without meeting any challenges along the way. Some people stop and give up; some continue despite the difficulties. What’s the difference?
Those who reach their goals know their “Why”.
Their “Why” is the reason behind their actions. This is what keeps them going during the worst of times. Maybe it’s the family, perhaps it’s for the greater good of the world, or perhaps it’s something personal. But it would be different for every person.
Giving up is easy. There are millions of reasons to do so. You need an anchor to reach your goal. Find your “Why”. And it must be strong enough to keep you on track to your success. We’ll discuss building your motivation later.
02. Design SMART Goals for Your Ideal Career Path
You’ve set your destination, and you know where you need to go and why you need to go there. Now it’s time to plan on how to get there.
An excellent framework to start with is the “SMART” framework, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Let’s look at them one by one.
“Specific” means well-defined, clear, or unambiguous. To make your goal specific, you need to ask the five Ws:
Who: Who is involved in this goal?
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Where: Where is this goal to be achieved?
When: When do I want to achieve this goal?
Why: Why do I want to achieve this goal?
Instead of saying, “I want to have a great career,” you should say, “I want to get accepted in X university and take the Y major to be able to be Z.”
What is the indicator of your success? How far should you go and how much should you do?
You should have some criteria to measure your success. Without them, you can’t determine your progress and know whether you’re on track to reach your goal.
In terms of education, you can measure the progress by tracking the lessons you take, the scores you get, the exams you pass, etc.
Also known as achievable, this point is talking about setting goals that you can achieve. Or breaking a larger goal into smaller and more attainable goals. By doing this, you can figure out ways to work towards the desired result.
Don’t set your goals to be too easy. You’ll get bored and lose interest. On the other hand, don’t make it too hard either. If you think it’s impossible, you won’t even bother to try.
The question that you should ask yourself is whether you have the resources and capabilities to achieve the goal? If not, what are you missing? You could use stories of others who have done it successfully before as your references.
The goal should be relevant to you and only to you. As Steve Jobs famously said: “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.”
That’s why we spend the earlier stage to find out what is the ideal career path for you based on your interests and skills.
It means that your goal has a start and finish date. Otherwise, there will be no sense of urgency, and you will have less motivation to achieve it.
You must answer this: “By when do you want to achieve your goal?”. Write it down and use all of your resources to make sure you arrive at the finish line on time.
A goal without a deadline is just a dream.
Now that you’ve set the goal, you can continue to the next stage: writing down the action plan. Also, don’t forget to set the timeline and expectations.
03. Set Your End Goal And Motivation
Using the SMART methodology discussed above, you can start your career development plan by setting your end goal. Set your main objective before you start the journey. This should also help you build the motivation to help you stay on track and reach your ultimate goal - just like a loyal assistant to help you reach your goals.
1. Set One Specific End Goal
It’s impossible to start a journey if you don’t know your destination. So the first thing you need to do to create a career development plan is to find out where you want to go. You need to look for your end goal.
But this end goal should be a specific one. There are virtually unlimited professions that you can choose, but you should pick one industry, focus only on one occupation. Specialize in one thing. Just like a journey, you can’t have many destinations. Do not set too many goals as it will confuse you and you will end up achieving none of them.
It doesn't mean that you can’t have many things that you want to do or achieve in life. In fact, you should have as many as you want. Don’t limit yourself. You should have just one primary goal in life regarding your career. This should be your priority.
2. Make Sure That It’s Aligned With Your Passion
One other thing to consider is that your goal has to be related to your passion. Your journey should take you to the place that you want to go to. What is the point of preparing for a journey if you don’t like where you are going? Even if you continue, a simple obstacle will stop you as you initially don’t want to go there.
If you love finance, don’t set your goal to be a government official - even if your parents said you should. Make up your mind to maintaining and directing your ideal career path so it’s in alignment with your passion.
3. Build Your Motivation to Stay on the Ideal Career Path
Life is full of obstacles. In pursuing your career, you will indeed find a bunch of them. Giving up is so easy.
So how will you stay on the course and not go sideways? You will need motivation. Powerful motivation.
Loving what you are doing helps, but sometimes it’s not enough. To build a strong motivation, you need faith (and we are not talking about religious faith).
As Tony Robbins said in one of his mega sessions, life is like treasure hunting. You don’t know whether your treasure is out there and how long it will take to find it - if you ever find it.
To be able to keep on going, there are three things that you need:
1. You need faith that your treasure IS out there.
2. You need faith that you CAN FIND your treasure
3. You need faith that after you find your treasure, all your effort will be WORTH IT.
If you have these three faiths, you will stay on your course no matter what happens along the way.
04. Create Actionable Steps For Your Career Development Plan
Having a general idea of what you want to achieve is not enough. To reach your goal, you should create and develop a career plan. This is the strategy that you will use to go from A to B, from the current you to the ideal future you. This career plan will also help you be the manager of your own ideal career path. It will provide you with a map you can follow easily and a sequence of steps arranged orderly.
It will help you focus as systematizing the plan produces amazing measurable growth.
1. Develop Specific but Flexible Steps
You would want to stick to your SMART goals in developing your steps. The career development plan should be specific enough that the steps are actionable, but it should also be flexible enough that you can adjust the steps along the way.
For example, “having a clearer mind” is not an actionable step, but “practicing meditation for 30 minutes every morning at 6” is. This step is also a flexible one, as you can adjust the time if you need it.
To determine the steps, you need to know where you are right now and where you want to be. Then divide the gaps into major milestones (or mini-goals), and fill in the space between milestones with a cluster or clusters of actionable steps. If these steps are still not actionable enough, you can consider them as sub-milestones, sub-sub milestones, and so on until they are actionable enough.
If you belong to the organizing department, you can also color-code the steps based on the types of action and/or urgency. For example, you can use red for urgent actions and orange for the less urgent, green for the finished task, blue for daily routines, yellow for a one-time task, purple for the education-oriented task, and other colors for other types of actions.
And why not take it to the next level and create beautiful infographics and charts that are pleasing to the eye? But maybe we’re stretching a bit too far here.
But basically, there’s no fixed rule here. You can be creative and adjust your plan according to your preferences.
2. Include All The Necessities
What do you need to realize your goals? What are the requirements? To be a digital marketer, you need to know about digital marketing, including content building, SEO, social media marketing, client acquisition, paid advertising, and many more.
There are also tools that you require, the budget that you need to spend, tuition fee for your education, people that you need to get in touch with, places you might need to go, the education you need to have, a degree (or degrees) that you need to get, and so on and so forth.
There are also special requirements for some specific occupations. For example, it’s required by the law that medical doctors graduate from medical school, be a member of the national medical doctors’ organization, and have several years of internship before they can open their own practice.
Find out more about these details, list everything the best you can, and include them in your steps and milestones.
3. Don’t Forget to List Possible Obstacles and Solutions
And don’t forget to add all the possible obstacles that you might find along the way.
But don’t just stop there. Try to come up with actionable solutions to be more ready when you stumble into these obstacles. The list might not be perfect, and you might need to tweak them along the way, but having an imperfect list of possible solutions in advance is better than having nothing.
Remember, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
4. Set the Estimated Timeline and Deadline for Each Step
You don’t have forever, so set the estimated timeline and deadline for each step. You can plan better if you can estimate how long the individual and the general processes will go.
Create points where you can check on your progress and evaluate your growth. These checkpoints can serve as the welcomed breaks or rest area, a necessity if you want to thrive in the long run.
5. Turn the Regular Steps Into Habits
Who’s the mother of all skills? Practice. Regular practice, to be exact. Some actionable steps you’ve come up with are activities you need to do regularly. It’s time to turn them into habits.
If you want to be good at writing, what should you do? You write. Regularly. Every day. Without fail.
You can read all the books that you can about swimming, and know everything about swimming, but if you want to be a good swimmer, you jump into the water and swim day in day out. There’s no way around it.
In one of his books, Malcolm Gladwell coined the terms 10.000 hours rule. The rule stated that mastering a skill requires at least 10.000 hours of practice. Even though there are tons of debates about this rule, especially about the exact number of hours, the essence is true. You need a lot of practice to master a skill.
In simpler words, make the practice your habit.
6. Create HQ Habits and Seinfeld Unbroken Chain
But having a habit is not enough. If you want to reach a high-quality goal, it’s essential to create a high-quality habit.
To do that, a set of standards is required. It’s impossible to improve yourself if you don’t have any benchmark to compare yourself against. And the easiest way to create a standard is to track and measure your progress.
Compare the result of your action today with your action yesterday. Even if it’s just slightly better, it means that you’re improving. Measuring your growth in this manner is easier. You will perform better each day compared to the previous days.
It’s also vital to create unbroken chains of high-quality habits. We can use the Seinfeld Principle coined by the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The principle goes more or less like this: mark the day in the calendar every time you do your step. After a while, it will become a chain of continuous actions.
The minimum required a continuous chain of actions to form a habit is thirty. You need to repeat an action daily for a month to make it into a habit.
Your job is simple: Don’t break the chain.
Combine this principle with your slight daily improvement, and you have created one of the high-quality habit programs. Consistency is the key to success.
7. Ideas for the Possible Milestones
We’ve talked about going from the “now you” to the “future ideal you” that have the ideal career - a.k.a, the one you love, that you are good at, and that people want to pay you to do it. We’ve also talked about filling in the gaps with milestones and sub milestones and breaking them down into actionable steps.
But what could these milestones be? Here are some ideas that can help you jumpstart your career development planning.
Take both a formal education program and informal training in the field related to your dream goal. Invest in yourself, augment your skills, slowly move past your competitors. Keep on learning, and you will keep improving your position.
If you’re just starting your career, you can involve yourself in volunteering work in challenging projects related to your fields of study. While the salary might not be ideal in volunteering work, you will gain real on-site knowledge and experience, face real problems, and learn how to find real possible solutions. For example, if you want to have a career in the media you can be the editor in your school or the college newspaper and lead other students as writers. If you want to be a teacher, try to volunteer teaching children from the slum areas around your city.
For school students who want to get a picture of what the future may hold, you can test the water by applying for an internship in companies with niches that fit your future goal. You will get pictures and examples of the kind of environment you will be in and the responsibilities you will have later in your career.
You can learn a lot by working for others, in one of the roles that you prefer. If you like selling, try to apply to be a salesperson in a company. If you are an engineer, try to find a job related to engineering. Later, you can apply this knowledge to start your own business, your style.
And why not journal your adventure in a blog or other forms of media like video or podcast? Having a journal can motivate you further in chasing your goal. It can also inspire others to create their path.
As some career paths require some proof of achievements, you can join several certification tests. Improve your competency. Having certifications will put you in the realm of “experts” where you can command better pay.
Knowing about things is not the same as personally doing those things. One can argue that people with personal experience will have more solid qualities.
05. Create An Easier and More Enjoyable Journey
Armed with the actionable steps, you can start the ideal career path adventure to reach your goals. Let’s not sugarcoat it. This road will be hard and full of challenges. You will be tested, you will make errors, you will fail, and you will be battered and bruised.
But nobody says that you can’t make it easier, more enjoyable, and entertaining. You are allowed to laugh a little here and there.
Love it or hate it; this is the path that you must follow. So why not make it a fun ride?
There are several things that you can do to make this battle less intimidating.
1. Try to Incorporate Your Hobbies
Doing the things you love will feel less “working” and more “playing”. So incorporating your hobbies into your ideal career path will change your work into something you prefer to do.
If you do the career path preparation correctly, you should already mix your hobbies into the daily actionable steps. It’s because we start by finding out what you like and what you’re good at.
2. Try to Find Different Ways to Do Things
The term is “Thinking out of the box”. There are usually several ways to do one thing, but we tend to do it in the most common and “acceptable” way.
So why not try to find the creative, uncommon types of ways to do something? Think of the other possible ways to solve a problem, and you might find better ways. Trying different solutions will also make the journey more enjoyable.
3. Create a Blog in Your Niche
We’ve mentioned this a bit before. Having a journal of how you paved your ideal career path can be a refreshing side activity. Pick topics related to your industry and start planning the editorial calendar. The audience and community you build can be your loyal supporters to help you stay on the path.
You can also make use of your blog as your portfolio. Collect all of your works, the masterpieces that you are proud of, on your blog as the showcases of what you are capable of doing, the reflection of you. This can help you a lot in establishing your ideal career.
There are many stories of people who get their best works and jobs from their websites/blogs. A well-established, professionally-maintained blog positions yourself as an authority and gives you more power to bargain in today’s competitive market. You’ll be a better choice compared to other prospective employees without a website.
Persuading others to hire you is a breeze as you will be one of the few ideal candidates among the countless applicants.
Besides helping yourself, keeping track of everything you do, and preserving your journey’s memories, you can also help and motivate others who are doing the same thing. They’re not just some strangers you happen to bump into, they’re your traveling companion.
Starting your own blog will be one of the decisions that you will never regret.
4. Join a Community of Like-Minded People
You are the average of the people you are with. This quote is also valid in the ideal career path creation. Surround yourself with people who know more about the subject than you do, and you will advance to their level.
You might not be an outgoing person, but don’t stay quiet and try to be more sociable. Search for and connect with communities of people who do what you do, go in the same direction as you go, understand what you have to go through, and are as passionate as you are. This can be both online communities like LinkedIn and offline ones in your regional area. You can contact your local district authority for more information.
There are many benefits of putting yourself out there and joining such a community. You can share your experience with other like-minded peers who have a different experience. You can also ask questions and learn from them. They might also be able to offer some helping hands regarding your current and future employment, recommend you to others so you can sell your service, and tell you about an opportunity (or opportunities) that fit your skillset.
It’s also possible to get information about the range of possible expected salaries from your peers. Or even form a partnership with them.
Then you can follow the history of their experiences, so you can ask the solution if you find some problems. You can see the track record from other people’s career paths. Besides problem-solving, you will have advanced techniques and strategies to face the challenge. From these opportunities, you have many experiences to explore many jobs. Therefore, expand your knowledge and skills to learn something new.
A good environment will start influencing you in a good way.
With those communities, you can find many opportunities to reach the goals. You will also be more motivated in your journey. You can network to build a professional career. The experience to create a supporting system is a suitable way for career success.
5. Find A Mentor. Or Two. Or More
Unless your target of an ideal career is something that no one has ever done before, like selling ice cream in Saturn, there will be others who know more about the subject and have more experience than you.
Find yourself a mentor, your senior you might say, someone who has done what you want to do. Learn from this person, do what he/she has done, and adapt the process to fit your personalities and styles.
But why stop at one? Get two, or three, or more mentors if you can. Set an appointment to pick their brain. Consulting your mentors would be a good way to find solutions. Their statuses are your teachers and seniors (or “senpai” in Japanese terms). They can guide you along your ideal career path.
The values of real-life experiences are equal to thousands of theories or more. Plus, a mentor can support you, help you in mediating a deal, share their persuasion secrets in lobbying clients, negotiating promotions, and give you a mental boost.
Learning from others’ experiences, you can stop theorizing. Start reflecting on real-life case studies and focusing on implementing them in your ideal career path.
06. The Shortcut: Strategize Your Career through a Career Strategizing Tool
You can try to figure out everything on your own, but it can be challenging to find time to do so, especially if you don’t have a framework and process, to begin with. Why inventing the new wheel and risking your future? Delegating the process to the proven, structured systems would be a better option.
Leveraging a career development solution will ensure that the short 30-60 minutes of your time spent strategizing your career is optimally allocated for… well strategizing your career. This removes the necessity of finding a suitable whole career strategy framework, seeking inspiration from other people’s ideal career paths, and researching the latest science behind career achievement and success.
Some of you might be thinking to yourselves right now, “should I hire a career coach?”.
You could, but a career coach in the US will typically cost $200 with a three to six months commitment, which adds up to around $2000-$3000. That’s quite a lot of money coming out from your pockets.
A better solution is to leverage a Career Strategizing Tool.
What if you can remove all the additional costs incurred from a career coaches’ hourly rate and get a tool that allows you to design and define your whole career strategy using the latest scientific research on career achievement from the psychologists who specifically study career success?
A Career Strategizing Tool includes a quiz or a questionnaire, a series of core questions that guide to a state of self-discovery. It’s also interactive canvases to mimic the feeling of pasting post-it notes on a whiteboard, career designs (from entrepreneurs, management consultants, investment bankers) from customers from the best companies in the world (Facebook, Deloitte, Google, Amazon).
It can help you figure out the “creating your whole career strategy” process in detail, from the very beginning to the last, including identifying your career options, setting goals, creating actionable steps, and identifying capabilities that you need to build. It will also give you thoughtful analysis and insight on your ideal career path.
A Career Strategizing Tool costs a fraction of the cost of a Career Coach or Career Counselor. It takes a more modern and practical approach to career planning. It can be done without the awkward introductions you would first experience with a career coach/career counselor as it is completely done online.