11 Strategies for Planning Your Next Career Step

Updated June 30, 2023

Job seekers take positions for a variety of reasons, from financial security to the provided benefits. While some people diligently plan out their career progression to ensure they meet their long-term goals, others focus exclusively on the job they currently hold. Knowing how to plan your next career step can help you find a satisfying, long-term position. In this article, we explain why it's important to plan your next career step, provide a list of ways to prepare for your next career step and offer tips for effective career development.

Related: How to Decide What to Do Next in Your Career

Why it's important to plan your next career step

It's important to take the time periodically to consider your current job and the potential you have for growth in that position. Planning your career can have a number of positive effects on your work and personal life:

  • Goal setting: When you plan your next career step, you'll likely set short- and long-term goals for yourself in the process. Goal setting is an excellent way to ensure you're continuing to challenge yourself and learn new skills.

  • Financial stability: In planning your next career step, you'll likely have the opportunity to negotiate for higher pay or increased benefits, which helps increase your financial stability over the long-term.

  • Professional development: Once you've determined your next career step, you're far more likely to engage in positive career development activities like attending classes and workshops than you would be with no potential career changes.

  • Reflection and understanding: As you determine what you want to do next in your job, you'll gain a deep understanding of your wants, needs, abilities and potential for growth.

  • Personal needs: Taking active steps to promote to a new role or take a different position with a new company can help you establish a job for yourself that better meets your personal needs and improves your work-life balance.

Related: How to Make a Career Plan in 8 Steps

11 ways to prepare for the next step in your career

As you consider your next career step, use these strategies to help you prepare effectively:

Reflect on your goals

The best way to establish your next career move is to think about what you want to accomplish in the short- and long-term. Consider what sort of life you want to lead, both personally and professionally, in the next five, 10 and 15 years. Think about what changes you'll need to make in your career in order to create that life for yourself.

Know your unique skills

Whether your next career step involves a promotion within your current organization or a new role with a different company, you'll need to convince the hiring manager that you're the best person for the role. Knowing what your unique skills are can help you get the job offer you want.

Participate in informational interviews

If your next career move involves an industry or job change, consider participating in some informational interviews with professionals in those roles. You'll get to learn what it's like to perform the tasks of the job, build your professional network and determine if it's the right career move for you.

Establish a personal brand

Work on developing a personal brand that's professional, cohesive and highlights your unique skills and accomplishments. Consider publishing articles online, optimizing your professional presence on career-focused social media sites and other actions that will build your credibility and visibility in the marketplace.

Think creatively

Your long-term goals may not align neatly with your current position. Think creatively about how you can get from where you are now to where you'd like to be. Speak with others working in the field or who hold the job you're interested in about their own career path. Consider starting your own company. Look into earning a relevant degree.

Describe your perfect day

If you're unsure where to start when thinking about your next career step, begin by describing your ideal day. Think about the activities that bring you the most joy and the type of work you like to engage in. You'll see patterns develop and can use that information to identify a job that will meet your needs.

Consider the short-term

Attempting to make an action plan for 10 or 20 years is admirable, but often ineffective. Instead, identify long-term goals you'd like to reach in the coming decades, but focus on action steps for only the next few years. Once you accomplish those action steps, you can reassess and determine what you need to do next.

Take practical steps

Once you have an idea of what you'd like to do, begin taking practical steps to reach your goals. These can be small actions, like reading professional development books in your off time, or larger commitments, like going back to school for an advanced degree.

Schedule time for planning

Regularly assess your career trajectory. For most people, taking a day to reflect and plan once a year is sufficient to ensure they're making the appropriate career decisions and meeting benchmarks and deadlines necessary for long-term success.

Maintain a list

As you earn recognition and achieve accomplishments professionally, keep a running a list of these endeavors. You can refer to it when it's time to actually apply for a new position or negotiate for a raise. Adding to the list regularly helps you remember everything you've accomplished.

Attend professional development

Make professional development a regular part of your life. Identify professional skills you can improve for your benefit and the benefit of your company and take classes or attend conferences designed to develop those abilities. Continually working on professional development can help ensure you're well prepared for whatever career step you take next.

Related: 5 Steps to Create a Career Development Plan for Yourself

Tips for effective career development

Use these tips to ensure you're effectively working towards a satisfying long-term career:

  • Make wise choices. When you have the option, take your time when selecting a job. Look for something with growth potential that will fulfill you professionally.

  • Listen to yourself. While some people may love a certain type of job or work environment, if you don't, then look for something else. Know yourself and what brings you joy.

  • Know what success means. Identify success for yourself. It may look different from how it does for your friends or colleagues.

  • Ask others for help. Seek out help and guidance when you need it, whether you're looking for a new position, deciding what steps to take next or identifying potential professional development opportunities.

  • Look for the positive. In the course of your career, you'll likely face some challenges. Despite this, maintain a positive attitude and find ways to use the challenges you've overcome to benefit your long-term career.

  • Consider the thoughts of others. While you know yourself best, it's often helpful to seek advice and guidance from trusted peers when considering career development.

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