DO YOU KNOW what you really want from your career? Chances are you want the same as most people: job satisfaction, a way to use your talents, financial rewards and the opportunity to learn and progress. You might even want to have some fun - after all, we do spend most of our lives at work. But few of us know how to achieve these goals. There are too many options, obstacles and expectations from other people, all confusing us about what we should and should not do. Frankly, the thought of managing our career fills most of us with dread. So, instead, we make decisions based on gut feelings, or let others direct our future while we simply hope for the best. It is like driving without a map. We might have a general idea where we are heading, but diversions and dead ends can leave us frustrated and exhausted. There is also a possibility of ending up a long way from where we wanted to be. Since comparatively few people have any kind of career map, it is not really surprising that surveys regularly indicate that a large percentage of us are unhappy in our work. Fortunately, there is another way. With a process of proactive career management, we can manage the uncertainties, stay focused on our goals and, ultimately, drive our own success. While the term 'career management' may sound daunting, the process itself is not that difficult. It comes down to understanding yourself and the job market, setting appropriate goals and monitoring your progress. Think of it as project management - the project is your career. Like any project, it helps if you adopt a structured approach, and this should involve the following: Analysis and research Identifying personal strengths and weaknesses and the factors that will keep you motivated in the long term. Also, identify opportunities, risks and obstacles. Setting goals Establishing what you want to achieve in the future, defining ideal job roles and setting out interim goals to aim for. Defining action Setting out what you need to do to meet your goals and to overcome obstacles. This might include developing key skills and knowledge, obtaining specific qualifications, or creating an action plan to find a job that will help you move forward. Leveraging resources Finding the people, information and technology to help you on your way. This includes making contacts and building a personal network. Monitoring progress Engaging in regular career reviews, revising plans based on progress to date and adapting to unexpected changes. Adopting this kind of structured approach does not mean you have to stick to a rigid career path or turn down unforeseen opportunities. Instead, your career plan should be used to map out the best route. It will keep you moving in the right direction and help in avoiding obstacles. Your career path may zigzag between different jobs, organisations and fields of work, but your overall direction and intended destination can stay the same. The case of Ms Leung serves as a good example. In the 1990s, she targeted the top job in a call centre company in Hong Kong. She had a clear plan of what she wanted to achieve and made steady progress in management roles. But when call centres started to relocate to India or the mainland, her long-term goal appeared unrealistic. Therefore, she revised her plans, looked for new opportunities and set her sights on a job in banking. It took hard work and the development of new skills. She also had to start in a more junior position, but she is now well on the way to a top role in customer relations management with a leading bank. The field is different, but Ms Leung is using her talents and progressing towards the senior business role she always wanted. Her story illustrates the challenge of continuous change which is a major part of today's job market. For our parents, career planning was simply a matter of choosing a profession or job they liked, and then working their way up through the company. These days, statistics suggest that people will leave their job or employer more than eight times during the course of a career. Some reports even suggest it may become necessary to change jobs every two years. Consider the evidence. In the early 1990s, telecommunications was regarded as 'hot' - before rationalisation and corporate downsizing followed. The dotcom bubble grew and then burst. Wealth managers are in high demand at present, but who can predict how long that will last? The latest thinking is that the employment market will see a huge growth in health care, desktop publishing, law, biotechnology and the management of natural resources. Successful people know how to predict and adapt to these changes. They do so by knowing what they want, keeping track of changes in the economy, developing the right transferable skills and applying them to changing opportunities. Over the next 12 weeks, we are going to help you develop these abilities. We will explain all you need to know to succeed in the long term, from deciding what you want to knowing when it is time to move on. Survival Tip #1 Manage your career as if it were a long-term project. Be clear about what you want to achieve, establish action plans and continuously monitor your success in the context of market changes and trends.