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Planning Your Career – An Overview

Post-graduation, you will make your first foray into the working world. You might be confused as to how to proceed from there and how your first job might fit into the larger picture of your overall career. Fret not! In this article, Uncle Ng will share some tips on how to plan your career and get where you need to be.

The Big Picture

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But how do we plan? The future is often so murky and we can only control so much in our lives. This is a fact. However, with proper planning, we can still make the most out the limited information that we have. The first step in planning is to step back and take in the big picture. Ask yourself where you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time. Sort out your priorities in life and your goals. Work out your interests, values, skills, qualifications, etc. At this stage, it’s very important to make sure that you are honest with yourself. A useful guide to self-introspection can be found here!

The future of our lives is like a landscape covered in fog, we can vaguely see some landmarks that will give us our general bearing but the path there is never clear.

Once you have completed your review of the big picture, collate the options available to you – this may or may not be straightforward depending on what you studied in your formal education and your grades. You should try to find out more details of the roles and industries so that you will be able to make a more informed decision. Try to discern the trajectory of the industry – is it expanding in Singapore or is it on its way out? Find out what the roles entail so that you can assess if they are aligned to your interests. Most importantly, look a few steps ahead and assess the prospects for each role – how can this role prepare you for the next one? Is there even a next one available?

Once all these inputs are ready, you can then proceed to start planning.

Step 1: Lay Out the Information

Visualise the parameters of your plan and what routes are available to you. For some, the options will be very limited by virtue of what you have studied (e.g. if you studied medicine, you can only go into healthcare), however, for the bulk of us, the options available can be quite large. At this stage, it may also be useful to sieve out those options that do not align with your interests and values.

A useful way to visualise the inputs to your plan

The information can be visualised as something like this where your present circumstances determine what is available for you which is further constrained by where you want to be. Of course, be realistic, your immediate goals in the next 5-10 years should be something within reach. If you aren’t able to fit in any options short of winning the lottery, you might want to revisit your goals. You don’t have to give it up completely, just maybe move them to a longer time horizon, say in 15-20 years’ time instead.

Being realistic with your goals expands the space of available options. Try not to end up in a situation where you have no practical option. That’s just wishful thinking!

Step 2: Map Out Your Plan

If you map out the possibilities for your career from now till retirement, it’ll probably look something like an MRT map. Your skillsets and qualifications will be your passport to get to where you want to go. Your career options are possible stations where you can get on the train and your goals are your destinations.

A key factor in planning is risk management. So make sure contingencies are covered. Do proper financial planning to make sure you’re adequate insured and are saving enough for your retirement! Try to choose a role that allows you to develop multiple skillsets simultaneously as this will allow you to pivot to other industries/roles in the future, if necessary.

New MRT map
Just make sure that your set of skills, experience and qualifications is an EZ-Link card and not a single-trip ticket! Otherwise, if you need to change line or go to a different station due to changing circumstances, you won’t be able to get there.

Step 3: Execute Your Plan

Go out, apply for those roles and as importantly, make sure you network effectively in the industry and professional circles relevant to the jobs that you’ve identified. Even after you’ve landed a job and started working, continue to nurture your networks and review your circumstances and plans so that you can adjust as and when required.

Carpe Diem

The future is out there. All the best as you move out and seize the opportunities of the day and I hope that you’ll land a role that will meet your expectations and help you achieve what you want in life. Onward and upward folks!

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