Starting your career can be challenging, especially if you’re not sure how to advance past the entry-level phase. If you’re working on advancing your career, it helps to know exactly what steps to take. A clearly defined career plan will allow you to take full advantage of your talents, both personally and professionally. When you’re in tune with what’s important to you — and have an outline for how you’re going achieve that goal — it makes sense why planning your career is an important thing.

How does one develop a well-defined career plan? It begins by figuring out what you want from your career. From there, it’s about identifying steps to get you where you want to be and then putting actionable plans into place so that each step leads directly to another step. Here are six powerful steps that will help you get your career moving in the right direction.

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Search for Opportunities

You can gain ground by searching for new opportunities. Take a proactive approach by setting up informational interviews with people in your field, networking events, and job fairs. All of these opportunities will not only help you make connections in your profession but also give you an idea of where you’d like to advance and how. It helps set professional goals and assess your current situation. Jot down action steps that move you closer to achieving your goals!

Create Goals

Before you can advance your career, you have to have a clear idea of where you want it to go. Sit down and create goals that are specific and measurable. Then, create an action plan for achieving those goals by mapping out ways you can achieve them each week. Don’t forget to revisit your goals every quarter and make any necessary revisions. There is nothing more powerful than regular goal-setting!

Come Up With A Plan

The first step to advancement is taking a hard look at your current position and evaluating your strengths, weaknesses, and desires. What are you doing well? Where could you use improvement? It’s essential to be honest with yourself here so that you can put together a plan for advancement that’s realistic. Think about what would make you happy in your career—the same thought process you went through when choosing your major or deciding on your long-term career goals.

Act on Your Plans and Stick to It

If you don’t take action, it doesn’t matter how good your plan is. Write down what steps you need to take. Prioritize them and schedule time for each one. Set a schedule or deadline for the completion of each project. If you can’t do so all at once, break things up into chunks and work on one chunk at a time until everything is done!

Don’t let yourself get distracted by anything that won’t help advance your career. Watch out especially for people who try to persuade you not to stay on track, like friends who want you to go out partying, people with projects that distract from yours, bosses who expect too much without providing adequate compensation or a realistic timeline. Know why YOU are doing something and stick with YOUR priorities!

Educate Yourself

When you’re just starting your career, a lot of what happens will be out of your control. At some point, though, you’ll have an opportunity to take action and start moving up. If it’s a big company, there may be small pathways with signs that will lead you toward promotions and better opportunities: courses, certifications, new responsibilities. Start looking at those resources now so that when they come around, you’ll already be ahead of everyone else in line.

You can also consider school and study further about the field you’re interested in. Want to start your own business? Learn how to do it through books or by going to a renowned business school that offers business courses. The more educated you are on a certain topic, even if it’s not directly related to your work, will give you an edge over others who haven’t been as proactive with their time. When they see that they need to take action because of competition, perhaps they won’t be as prepared and won’t advance as far as you did. So, educate yourself today so that you’ll have an advantage tomorrow!

Research Other Possibilities

Take an inventory of your skills, talents, and career aspirations. While you’re at it, research other companies that are similar in size and scope to your employer. As you discover new possibilities for the next step in your career, keep track of them. You might find that one or more of these opportunities speak to you—but if so, you must be ready when they come around. Keep learning about industry trends, read trade magazines, participate in professional associations, build up your network. All of these efforts help ensure that when opportunity knocks, you’ll have earned a shot at answering.

If you take action in these six areas, you’ll be primed for career advancement—and a happier, more fulfilling life. Yes, it’s work, but it’s worth it. After all, progress is a privilege that only happens when we make an effort. If you want things to change, start making different choices and moving in a new direction.

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