Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn to your cell phone and use your GPS app to lead you to your career goals? If you had SIRI to inform you of opportunities along the way, or to ask you to make a U-turn if you were going in the wrong direction? Unfortunately, many social workers figure out what they don’t want to do, before they learn what their calling is. Many of us take our first jobs out of happenstance, sometimes because we are afraid we won’t get another offer, or we feel as if we need to settle. Additionally, most social workers are not trained to research, identify goals, and prepare for a job search. We are also not trained to advocate for ourselves. So where does that leave us?

Strategic career planning involves identifying opportunities in your current situation that will propel your career to the next level at each stage of your career, before you enter that stage. Each time you make a career transition, it is important to make sure it is a purposeful career move and will contribute to a clear and logical career trajectory when you put it on your résumé.

There are times when we make a career transition that involves concessions. For example, you might take on additional duties at your job without actually receiving a promotion. These are called workplace concessions, and although you may not feel the value of these opportunities right away, they will lead to other opportunities that will have a positive impact on your value.

Additionally, at times, your supervisor may ask you to “switch gears.” You may be tasked to contribute to an important project or committee—one that is time-limited and not part of your daily work duties. This ability to switch gears is an invaluable work characteristic that will enhance your reputation and leadership.

Strategic career planning also includes goal-setting for each stage of your career, to enhance your skills, increase your visibility, and maximize career opportunities. In each stage of your career, you will find opportunities to network with experts and advance your knowledge, in order to hone your expertise. By taking the following steps, you will become a leader in your field and your community. Depending on how far you would like to go, you could become a national expert in your field, area of practice, or expertise.

Read the full article in The New Social Worker.