Career Planning – Fine Tune your Career
in Careers Advice, Changing Jobs, Staying in Your Job

Career Planning – Fine Tune your Career

10 top tips for fine tuning your career plans in the coming year – think of it like a careers MOT!

The tips are split into two. First 5 tips are for everyone, the second 5 tips are for anyone not sure about their current work.

Revisit your career plan

Wait a minute, you don’t have a career plan? How do you know where you should be or what you are on target to do in your career? When are you going to retire and what are you going to do next? To condense down many hours of career coaching & exit strategy sessions into a few sentences, stop reading this article, write down the following:

  1. What you earn at the moment
  2. What you want to earn in 5 years’ time
  3. What work you do at the moment
  4. What work you want to do in 5 years’ time
  5. Where you want to be in 5 years’ time
  6. 5 positives about your current role and 5 negatives. Do the negatives outweigh the positives?
  7. Where your family unit (eg your partner and children) wants to be in 5 years’ time – is this the same as your plan?
  8. To get to where you want to be in 5 years’ time, what do you need to do between now and then?

Put this somewhere safe, and next year on the 1st or 2nd January, revisit it and see if your answers have changed. Do this every year until you retire.

Examine your overheads – can you afford to work?

We come across salaried staff all the time who seem to work to pay to work, rather than work to pay for their lifestyle. For example, if you earn £3k net a month, but you are spending over £500 a month getting to work, your mortgage eats up £1.5k and your bills another £600, then in your current job you are probably not generating yourself a lot of lifestyle.. Do you need to ask for a payrise or at least a salary review? There are other articles on this site about negotiating a payrise, but suffice to say – always think from the employer’s perspective. What can you negotiate on – flexible working, bonus schemes, profit share.

Have a look at your CV and LinkedIn profile

Does your CV accurately reflect your current experience? Does LinkedIn sell you sufficiently if anyone comes headhunting? Have you reviewed your LinkedIn profile in recent years and added in contact details (quick tip – include your email address in your profile and anyone can contact you easily).

Plan your life for the next year

Have you booked your annual leave with your employers? If not, why not? Would you rather wait until everyone else books their annual leave before you decide what you want to take off? Is this a good idea in your workplace? Choose your weeks off nice and early, and get the best choices!

Think about non-work related activities

What do you get up to outside work? Some of us do absolutely loads of things, others just have their work and thats it, other than Netflix. What can you offer society or the world at large? Is there something you could be doing this year other than work? Fancy taking up a new sport, a hobby, getting fit, travelling, collecting something, helping out in the community? Whats stopping you? Work life balance is vital to a long lasting happy career.

Ask yourself whether or not you are happy at work

If you are happy at work, why are you reading this? Switch off your phone/ipad/laptop, enjoy your break and look forward to returning to your lovely workplace full of friendly people, customers who appreciate you and a boss who is grateful for your efforts.

If you are not happy at work, carry on reading this, but don’t spend all day on social media..

Work out why you are not happy at work

Without knowing why you are not happy at work, you cannot then start to work out how you do something about it.

  1. Do you like your colleagues?
  2. Do you like your customers?
  3. Do you like your fellow professionals?
  4. Is the workload too much for you?
  5. Do you get time off when you need it?
  6. Is your boss a tyrant or a nice person?
  7. Are you being bullied without realising it?
  8. Is someone putting you down all the time?

Sometimes it takes a bit of thinking to actually work out why you are not happy, and sometimes we find candidates applying for jobs (we are Ten Percent Legal Recruitment) jump out of the frying pan of a psycho boss and into the fire with another similarly psychopathic boss!

Is doing what you are doing, something you want to keep doing?

Or are you just doing it because your mum wanted you to be a lawyer and she would be incredibly disappointed if you stopped doing it?

We should never do a job because we think others expect it from us. If you are not happy doing something, don’t delay, change what you are doing. Just because your mum can no longer tell her friends you are a wonderful accountant/lawyer/doctor/manager doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your mental & physical health to continue in a profession you don’t actually like. Ditch and switch!

Do some research on yourself

Have a look online and see what other professionals in similar jobs are doing, what they are writing, what activities they undertake, how much they are being paid, how many jobs are being advertised at the levels of seniority you are looking for. What can you find out that may be of interest or use to you in your own career in the year to come? Anything you need to adjust for your own profile or internet presence?

Think about creating content online

This is an easy win-win for anyone wanting to expand their scope, their customer base, their advertised expertise and their career potential. Start writing advice or blog articles online about anything linked to your specialist subject. Don’t expect immediate responses, think of it as a long term plan. I will write this article and then completely forget about it as one in many 100s I have done in the last 20 years, but at some point someone may well pick it up and find something of use to them. They may even visit our website for assistance. There again, they may not.

Think about yourself

Your career is not a charity. You are not in the business of giving generously to your employers. Although I would love it if I contacted one of our employees on a Sunday night at 8pm and they responded immediately, I don’t expect a response until they start work the following day. You do not have an obligation to do nice things for your employer. Look after yourself and your own mental & physical health. Put your needs first before those of your employer. After all, if you are happy in yourself, an employer benefits from this. Don’t forget that work is not life, it is a means to an end.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at