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Where do You Want to be in Five Years?

What is your career goal?  Where do you see yourself in five years?  If you don't have a clear answer, these questions can easily send you into a cold sweat.  There are so many options available but none of them feel exactly right.  What happens if you choose a career and it ends up being a mistake?  The good news is that you can always change your career goal if needed but you will achieve more if you are working from a plan.  Here are a few tips to help you get started in the career planning process:

Look at the labour market.  Even if you are perfectly skilled to be a juggler, you won't be able to find a job if there are no jobs available.  When you are making a career plan, it is important that you take the labour market into consideration.  Which jobs are in demand and which jobs are likely to be in demand in the future?  Try to stay up to date with emerging trends in your industry to give you an idea of where there might be opportunities.  Also, the Canada Job Bank website has profiles including labour market outlooks for many different career choices. 

Find a career that is a good match with your skills and interests.  While you need to find a career with a positive labour market outlook, that is not the only factor.  The job needs to be consistent with both your skills and your interests.  If the job is similar to roles that you have held in the past, then you would likely be a strong candidate for the position.  If you are lacking in direct experience but you are hoping to make a career change, it is possible with the right transferable skills and enthusiasm.  What's most important is that you are not choosing a career only because of the labour market outlook. 

Commit to a clear goal.  When you are just working from a general idea of what you want to accomplish in your career, it becomes difficult to focus your energy.  People who write down their goals are statistically much more likely to achieve them.  What exactly is your career goal?  What is your timeline?  What steps will you take to achieve it?  Create a clear plan for yourself and commit to making it happen.

Share your goal.  Once you have a plan in place, share it with your friends and family.  This will make it feel more real to you and it will make you accountable to the people in your life, which will make you more likely to stick to the plan.  The other benefit is that your friends and family all have their own network and they may be able to help you achieve your goals in unexpected ways. 

Celebrate your successes.  The progression of your career is a marathon.  You could work tirelessly for months or even years without experiencing many wins.  It is important that you celebrate any and all victories.  Did you complete a training program? Did you make a valuable networking contact?  Did you get a job interview?  These are all wins that will collectively allow you to achieve your career goal.  By celebrating these small victories, you will be able to better sustain yourself through the tougher days. 

It can be exciting to create a career plan and it's thrilling when you actually start following through with it.  Invest some time into it; at the very least, it will give you some direction.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image by