Plan your career


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Plan your career

  1. 1. Plan Your Career By Chelse Benham "Most people spend more time putting together a tailgate party than planning for their careers," said Marta Driesslein, career strategist It may seem strange to think about strategically mapping out your career. It almost seems counterintuitive to plan beforehand for something that unfolds naturally. Or does it? Can you, in fact, plan your professional career? For many people it’s hard to imagine actually planning out their professional careers and most haven’t even considered the possibility. Although it is best to plan as early as college, anybody at any stage in life can chart where they want to go professionally. “It is very helpful to have a passion because it drives you and keeps you going on your chosen career. However, some people find it difficult to identify their passion. People don’t consider what their dreams were as children, therefore, they set aside their creativity and their imagination possibly believing that their childhood dreams won’t transfer into a reasonable profession, i.e. astronaut or rock star,” said Kim Nguyen-Finn, counselor at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Counseling Center. “If people look at their hobbies and interests that can help them identify their passion. If you can visualize yourself doing the work it can spark that passion within you.” Passion is an important ingredient in formulating a career plan according to Marta Driesslein, career strategist at R.L. Stevens & Associates Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts found at She writes, “The quality of your life comes down to how you control the quality of your focus." Driesslein identifies focus as “simply taking control of your professional direction through systematic identification of: • Your passion...What gets you excited each morning when you awaken? • Your purpose...Why do you do what you do? • Your package...What are you doing to increase your continued marketability?” Identifying your passion and translating that into a career can be a challenge. Many people have difficulty with this first step and don’t know how to move off center to begin the career decision-making process. First, list experiences from your past that are positive for you. These are things that you are proud of, that make you feel energized as you recall them. Include your earliest memories. They can be anything from building a house to drawing a picture or running a race. It only matters how you feel about it. The standard
  2. 2. to use in choosing items for this list is your own pride in feeling "I did that myself!" This will enable you to create a list that reflects those things you enjoyed doing from which you can assess what your interests, abilities and values are. “We help students identify what their interests, abilities and work values are. We talk with students and we give them personality assessments to identify what interests them. We explain the career decision making process and help students gather information about themselves to help them narrow down some career options,” Nguyen-Finn said. “We can help them weigh the alternatives and focus on their action plan and ultimately, help them get the career of their choice. We assist them when choosing their classes and we encourage them to participate in job shadowing, interning, interviewing professionals and volunteering in their career area.” The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported that the average person makes more than three career changes during their working life. “Statistics show that people change careers a half dozen times in their lifetimes. Part of the reason is that most people don’t spend time in the beginning creating a career plan,” said Deborah Lapoint, a vocational counselor based in Spokane, Washington. She is quoted in the Web article, “Mapping Out Your Career” at If you are currently working for a company it may be as simple as discovering what your promotional options are through the human resources department. In some companies, the promotion process is clearly outlined. Unfortunately, this may mean being promoted will require the removal of someone in a higher position. This is often the case in the upper echelons of management. If the glass ceiling seems firmly in place, you will have to look outside your present employment for opportunities that afford professional growth. In the Web article “Mapping Out Your Career,” Judy Kaplan Baron, a certified career counselor based in San Diego, California writes, “Making a plan is the difference between getting what you want and hoping to get it.” The article offers some basic steps used in forming a career plan: 1. Develop a career plan to determine your interests and skills. Thinking about your skills and interests can help you find a satisfying career. To determine your interests, think about what you like to do. Think about experiences you have enjoyed. Evaluate what you liked, what you found challenging and what you may have learned from those experiences. Make a list of these activities. This self-assessment can reveal your characteristics, interests, values and skills. It will define your strengths and your weaknesses. Looking for a
  3. 3. match between these and the work you are considering is the most important step you can take before you write a resume or begin the search for a job. In fact, when the time comes to write your resume and prepare for a job interview, you will find the task easier if you have completed the self-assessment process first. Consider answering the following questions located at • What skills do you want to use on the job? Are they adaptable, transferable and job-related skills? • What type of people do you want to work with? Strong, assertive individuals? Creative sorts? • What type of atmosphere do you function best in? Relaxed, easy-going? Fast-paced, goal-oriented? • How much responsibility are you prepared to accept? Do you want to be responsible for the work of others? • Do you prefer a structured workday or are you fairly adaptable? • Are you more comfortable with close supervision? Do you like having the option of prioritizing your own work? • Do you like to work independently or as part of a team? • What type of environment do you want to work in? Do you like quiet? Do you need to be near a window? • What population do you want to work with? Adults, children, the elderly, those with special needs? • What hours do you want to work? Do you need a part-time, flexible schedule? What about working on the weekends? • How much money do you want/need to make? Are benefits important to you? (This includes vacation time, holiday pay and medical benefits.) • What is important to you? What values or ideals would you like to further in the work that you do? (This may include cleaning up the environment, making money, helping others, gaining prestige, etc.) 2. Make a list of skills that you have. Your skills may include training you have gained through part-time or full-time jobs. Even if you haven't been employed before, you do have some skills which will help you find a job. For example, you may have skills you learned through volunteer work or through social activities. A skill is a learned ability to do something well and skills are the currency that buys you the job. In the labor market you receive pay in exchange for the skills that you offer and use at work. Individuals who can describe themselves to a potential employer or potential promotion in terms of their skills are more likely to find the work that they want and enjoy. If you were asked right now to list your skills, what would your list look like? It might be a short list, not because you do not have the skills, but
  4. 4. simply because you have never been asked to identify them and are not accustomed to thinking and talking about them. According to experts at Waterloo University in Canada, each person has approximately 700 different skills in their repertoire. Most individuals have trouble identifying them and if they do recognize them, they don’t feel right promoting them. However, you cannot afford this kind of misdirected modesty. Before you can be confident about your ability to move through a changing work world, you have to realistically know what your strengths are. Remember to use many action verbs on your resume and promotion proposal to describe your skills. For assistance on this visit Job analysis: Job Descriptions at for a list of action verbs. 3. Find out about the types of careers available to you. If you don't research careers, you may not know about the best occupations to fit your interests and skills. It's also important to decide if the career you are considering is really what you expect and whether it offers the salary and benefits you want. One good way to learn about a career is to intern in the position. (Internships are also a great way to gain experience in your selected career field). Another good way to find out about a job is to network -- talk to someone who is in the career now. 4. Once you have determined what career path you want to follow, assess what you need to do to prepare for that career. Do you need special training? If so, research the schools or continuing education programs that offer the kind of training you need. What kinds of experience will you need to be successful in the career? Consider an internship as a way to get work experience in the career field. Remember the old cliché, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Nothing could be closer to the truth when planning your career. At least half of your life will be spent working. Is it worth it to capriciously jump from job to job or ignore forming a career plan in an effort to achieve the job of your dreams? Set your mind to the task, and commit to charting the professional career you want tomorrow, today. "Live out your imagination, not your history." - Steven Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”