Only you can plan your career.

During the first few years of your career, a lot of your time is going to be focused on figuring out how to make it through the day. You’ll be in the weeds, so to speak. And it will probably take several months to settle into a new job and even a couple of years for you to feel like you have a clue about what you’re doing in your chosen profession.  Putting your head down and focusing on the day-to-day job is necessary, but make sure you act strategically when you can so that when you do pop up for air, you like where your career is headed.

It is so normal to feel aimless at the start of your career!  For the first time in your life, you might not have a concrete goal.  You had been on a clear trajectory: graduate high school…get a degree or other qualification…get a job…and then…what?

It’s okay if you cannot answer that question right now. But don’t let the total newness of life upon entry to the full-time working world stop you from taking control where you can. Remember – nobody cares about your career as much as you do. And it’s up to you to take it where you want to go.

So, even when you have little to no autonomy in your daily work life, here are a few things to try to help you plan your career:

Take on new work strategically

Obviously, you need to do the work assigned to you. But keep an eye and ear out for opportunities beyond your current daily grind. Get to know colleagues on your team and speak with your formal and informal mentors and supervisors about what they’re doing and where your department is headed.

Want to work with a particular person? If you see a gap in your schedule coming up, reach out to them and ask if they have any opportunities.

Interested in a particular project? Figure out who in your office works on it and ask to get involved.

Just remember to get your supervisor’s OK before taking on new work that’s outside of your normal duties.

Get involved outside of your job

Join a networking group for young professionals or an organization dedicated to your career.  These activities can provide leadership opportunities for you before you get those chances at work.

Do this even if you don’t see yourself sticking put at your current job. Making connections when you are younger pays off for years when you begin looking for a new job or clients.

Attend office events

Join your colleagues at the weekly happy hour. Attend the lunchtime lecture series. Sign up to attend the fundraiser where your company bought a table. You don’t need to go to everything, but you should go to some things in order to stay engaged in your company, make connections, hear about new and interesting matters, or at the least, just enjoy some free food and drink!

Photo from Unplash.

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