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Sam Rees-Adams: A six-step process for your career

There is an easy way to bring more focus to your career planning and establish your goals 

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What’s your approach to planning your career? Is it laser-sharp focus and meticulous planning or a more organic approach? Knowing exactly where you want to be at each stage and what you need to do to get there or trying different things and seeing what works (or doesn’t) is the ideal situation but how close are you to it?

The good news is that there is an easy way to bring more focus to your career planning and it’s never too late to do so. At the IFP, we advocate the six-step process of financial planning. However, you can apply this concept just as successfully to your own career as to your clients’ financial affairs.

In both cases, establishing goals is essential. Whether you want to progress to a senior role with your current firm, move to another firm or start up your own business, you need to know where you want to go before you can work out how to get there.

Having set your goals, you can look at where you are now and what you have in your toolkit by way of skills, qualifications and experience. Treat these as the assets on your career balance sheet. 

Now think about any gaps you know you have and treat these as the liabilities on your balance sheet. Don’t just focus on qualifications and experience but think carefully about skills too. Don’t underestimate the portfolio of skills you have built up during your career to date or the importance of the skills you are yet to develop.

You’re now in a position to put the first two steps together and start doing some analysis. Where are the gaps? Are they gaps that you will have to fll to progress towards your career goals or are they “nice to haves”?.

Having done all the groundwork, you can progress to develop your career plan. You know where you want to get to, where you are at the moment and where any gaps are, so you can find solutions to fill those gaps. Such solutions may include taking whole qualifications, such as the Certified Financial Planner certification or specific technical units in areas such as pensions or investments.

Alternatively, the solution might be a training course designed to develop or improve a particular skill. Colleagues and people within your professional network can be a huge source of untapped expertise so don’t overlook opportunities for some informal – or formal – mentoring from them.

Step five is all about implementation. You’re familiar not only with what you need to do but also ways of doing it, so it’s a case of putting it into practice. Book yourself on to that training course, register for that qualification and put your study plan together.

Vitally important is step six – monitoring and review. Things change, life gets in the way and your priorities at 40 might not be the same as at 20. The most meticulous career plan in the world will not look the same as it did when you formulated it because that’s just not realistic.

Regular reviews of goals and circumstances will ensure that the plan stays alive and you remain on track to make the greatest success of your career that you possibly can.

Sam Rees-Adams is director of professional standards at the Institute of Financial Planning 

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