Career planning and decision making
Career is a whole of life concept and not just what you are currently doing as a ‘job’. It is the Interrelatedness of all things currently in your life – study, leisure, family, friends, voluntary and/or community work, and how you fit it all together.
Why is career planning so important?
There are so many choices and options available and this can make planning your career quite difficult. The new 'world of work' requires you to be in charge of creating your own career; managing it will be a life-long journey.
Your most important asset is yourself. Therefore, the more you invest in yourself in the form of skills and knowledge development, self-awareness, networking and gaining relevant experiences, the more you expand your opportunities.
The steps to career planning
Step One → Define
The first step in career planning is self-understanding. Your current knowledge and skills, your interests, values, and the type of work you would prefer to do.
Step Two → Discover
The second step in career planning is career exploration. Learning all you can about the world of work and today's job market.
Step Three → Decide
The third step is career pathways. Gathering information about work and study, checking out what is available and what is realistic then narrowing your choices and prioritising.
Step Four → Develop
The fourth step is to create an action plan. Prepare an action plan and strategies towards the achievement of your life/career goals.
Step Five → Deliver
The final step is to put your plan into action and make it happen. Start the journey towards a career you will love.
Self-assessment or self-understanding is the process of knowing yourself. Before you can decide what you want to be, you first have to define who you are.
As you continue to develop both personally and professionally throughout your career, it will be necessary for you to re-assess yourself periodically in relation to your career goal provider.
A skill is the ability to do something well as a result of experience. Skills are acquired from work experiences, community involvement, and many other roles people have in their lives.
Some skills can be transferred from one role to another – these are called transferable skills. Some skills only relate to a specific job – these are known a special knowledge skills (or specialist skills), eg install electrical wiring, draw up house plans, prepare financial accounts.
Skills can come from a variety of areas:
• Life experiences – voluntary or unpaid work
• Work experiences – paid work, full time, part time or project based
• Teaching yourself – learning done without enrolling in a course, nor done at work
• Training on the job – formal learning done at work, as well as skills gained at work
• Formal study – learning done at a tertiary education institution
Your knowledge is one of your major career assets. It includes both your general knowledge and your specialised knowledge.
A considerable amount of our knowledge is developed through formal education and training, however, there are a broad range of other arenas in which we accumulate knowledge such as through hobbies and interests.
Things you enjoy doing and are passionate about can provide important clues about work or career interests.
Think about how you spend your spare time, what do you find the most fun? What captures your attention and why?
The motivation or personal incentives needed for job satisfaction are unique to each person. By examining your values, you can then determine what is important to you and prioritise what role work will play in your life.
Values are the things that are important to us. They are the principles that give meaning to our lives. Jobs that don’t meet our values may make us feel uncomfortable or unhappy. Our values are often influenced by our culture, upbringing, family and current lifestyle, among other things.
Values can be boken into three categories:
• Intrinsic values - These are the intangible rewards, those related to motivation and satisfaction such as helping others
• Extrinsic values - These are the tangible rewards or conditions such as having good work hours or being paid well
• Lifestyle values - These are the personal values associated with how and where you want to live such as wanting to live in a rural setting.
For more information about values watch the video below.
This is the characteristics of the place you would like to live and work, the work environment, the job itself and the setting, your co-workers, and the competencies and skills you would like to use, and income and benefits.
Talents and natural abilities indicate potential in a particular area. People often take for granted the skills that come easily to them, yet those are precisely the areas that you should explore.
If you understand your abilities, you'll be aware of skill areas that may require extra time and effort for you to learn or avoid careers that would require you to struggle with learning skills that may not come as easily to you.
Your unique combination of emotional and behavioral characteristics constitutes your personality.
Different careers align with different personality types: knowing your personality can enable you to enhance your career choices and ultimately your career success.
Try the personality test below to discover where you might fit in career wise.
Well-known career theorist, Dr John Holland developed a system of classifying work and personality types into 6 clusters or families. These clusters are Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional or RIASEC.
Most people prefer some 'families' more than others. If your preferences are ranked in the order of your most favourite through to your least favourite you can get an idea of some of the occupations you might prefer. Remember that this is simply an indication and should be used in conjunction with all the other information you are gathering about yourself.
RIASEC Personality Test
Take this personality test based on the RIASEC method to gain insight into careers that could suit you.Take the test
Career Exploration - The World of Work
It is important to explore the 'world of work' before making a career decision to ensure that you are well informed of the work environment. Knowing where the jobs are and how easy it is to get them will influence your choices. Being aware of the obstacles or trends in the world of work will help you make career enhancing decisions to enable you to transition into successful employment.
How to find out more
Consider these methods to explore the world of work:
Research the latest trends in the job market, the hot jobs, job shortages and where you go for certain job opportunities
Find our what types of employment contracts are available. What kinds of ways can you work – part time, full time, job share, flexi-time
Consider what are some of the differences in today’s world of work compared to 50 years ago, 100 years ago? What does this mean for the future?
Talk to people who are working in jobs of interest to you. Attend informational interviews
Engage in work experiences or volunteering to get a sense of what the role encompasses.
Change is everywhere in the world of work.
Career myths and realities quiz
Take this quiz to find out about the realities and myths about careers.Take the quiz
Narrowing it down
Think about what you learned about yourself in the Define section and what you have discovered in your career exploration research. Use this information to choose a few areas of work that you are interested in.
Within each area of work that you are interested in, identify a job title that may appeal e.g. tour guide or receptionist. Do some further research on these jobs, make sure you find out about:
Other names for the job
The pay and the prospects
How you can enter the job
The employers, businesses and institutions which employs people in this area
Where the most jobs are situated
What the working conditions are
From the information from your research select the one job that most appeals to you. Taking into consideration all of the information that you have gathered so far about yourself, and any other information, identify why you have chosen one particular path over the other. You could do this by drawing up a table where you list advantages and disadvantages.
Now that you have a career pathway selected you need to think about how you could follow this pathway. This is where goal setting comes into play. Goals give you a sense of direction to channel your abilities, efforts, and resources. Great goals point you where you want to go – they create an immediate focus.
By setting goals that clearly define 'where you are now' and 'where you need to be,' you will have a clearer idea of what, specifically, you have to do. Knowing what you need to do helps you to focus your efforts to get the desired results.
Begin your goal setting by researching how to begin on your career pathway. If you think study is required explore local institutions and/or training providers to determine where you can study that best meets your needs.
Things to find out:
What the course or programme contains
How long it takes to complete
What the entry requirements are
How much the fees are
Can the programme be studied on-line, by distance, in class or a mixture?
Is there any RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) available.
Goals should be written down. By writing your goals down you can describe how the results are to be obtained, how the results will be measured, and when the work will be done. They should be SMART goals:
A goal properly set is halfway reached.
What exactly do you want to accomplish? The expected outcome must be clear and unambiguous.
What, when, and how much.
Are you able to measure your progress? How will you assess the progress?
A sliding scale (1-10) | Hit or miss | Success or failure
Is your goal within your reach given your current situation?
Is it realistic and attainable given your resources and time available? Does it stretch you a bit, but not too much?
A relevant goal should help you towards your 'bigger' objectives. You want to create goals that are in line with your purpose in life.
What is the deadline for completing your goal? Is it a realistic time frame?
Does it have a starting point, an ending point, and a fixed duration?
Try using the following table to write down some of your goals and make sure they are SMART.
|I want to write a collection of short stories for children.||I will finish ten short stories.||I will write one new story per month.||I want to be a published author.||I will finish the short stories by May 2019.|
A smart goal is a ruler for measuring your learning growth.
Good goals and Bad goals
Bad example: I want to have an exhibition
Good example: I want to have an exhibition of my portrait photographs at the Space Gallery by the end of 2020. I will aim to take one new image every month and will have 20 images for the exhibition.
Bad example: I want to be rich.
Good example: I want to generate $100,000 in passive income within 5 years from this date.
Bad example: I want to lose 15 kilos in 2 months.
Good example: I want to lose 15 kilos by Christmas 2010. I will do this by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy food and work on losing a kilo a week.
Bad example: Within one year, I want to become a witch and perform magic spells to make people do what I want.
Good example: By the end of the year, I want to understand how we create our own realities by the power of positive thinking. To do this I will find relevant books and look into relevant courses.
Bad example: I am going to do my homework.
Good example: I am going to finish my homework by 8pm tonight and I’ll achieve this deadline by spending one hour on each subject.
Overcoming obstacles to your goals
Goals are rarely without obstacles. If they were easy to attain and without obstacles, you would already be doing them, right? So how can you recognise and overcome the obstacles and attain the goals you set for yourself?
The path around obstacles
Know that you will have tough times. Know that it won’t be easy. Know also that despite the obstacles, you will reach your goals. You will get through, around, or over the obstacles. They are there for a reason. Whether it is to teach you a bit about yourself, to make you appreciate your success when you attain it, or to make you stronger – each and every obstacle you encounter has a positive side to it.
Being 100% responsible for yourself can seem overwhelming, but when you accept responsibility for achieving your personal goals, you’ll experience an incredible sense of empowerment. If you truly believe that everything in your life is your creatio, the good, the bad, and the ugly, then how could anything stop you from reaching your goals?
Find out what obstacles you’re likely to encounter so you can be prepared for them. When you’re prepared for them you can overcome them more easily.
Research your goal; if you want to lose weight, what are common obstacles you might encounter? For example, cutting back on sugar may cause some cravings to surface. Cutting back on caffeine may cause temporary irritability, and taking on a detox diet may cause temporary digestion issues.
Once you understand what potential obstacles you might face, you can plan how you’re going to tackle them. For example, if you’re dealing with giving up caffeine and you know you’re going to have headaches, you can plan a few days off of work, grab a bottle of pain relievers, or brace yourself to power through the headaches knowing the reward is on the other end.
Goals don’t have to be permanent, they are there to help give you a focus. If you think of them more as intentions this will help you to regularly review your goals and adjust them to the changes and situations in your life.
You don’t always need a plan to create a career. Instead, you need a plan to act on happenstance, to transform unplanned events into career opportunities. By reviewing your goals regulary you will be flexible enough to be able to take those unplanned oppurtunities instead of focusing on only one career pathway.
Developing your action plan
Once you know what direction your career goal is in, you need to develop a career action plan. A career action plan helps to clarify directions and decision making.
An effective career action plan contains:
A clear idea of a career goal and a list of career objectives and how you are going to achieve this
A summary of your values, interests and influences
A list of your current acquire skills and qualifications and any additional skills you still need to acquire
Any personal development strategies planned
Any other steps you need to do to make this plan happen
Example action plan
You can create your action plan any way you want.
Below is an example using lists and bullet points.
CAREER ACTION PLAN
Vet Nursing (end 2011)
I want to work as a Vet Nurse. In order to achieve this I need to complete the Certificate in Vet Nursing, I can do this by the end of 2010.
To improve my chances of work, I could do the Diploma in Vet Nursing. I could have this by the end of 2012.
I could have two years work experience by the end of 2011 if I look for part-time work and/or work experience in a vet clinic.
I will visit StudyLink to discuss financial support by the end of next week.
My key skills are:
Excellent communication skills
Good computer skills
Empathy and patience
Excellent organizational skills & time management
Ability to pay attention to detail
I am interested in:
My personal values are:
Good work/life balance
Time for me and my family
Access to further education and training
Having control over what I do
Working in a good team
Sense of achievement
My key areas of knowledge are in:
My qualifications are in the area of:
All of these are really useful as a Vet Nurse.
I enjoy working with: Animals and people of all ages from all walks of life.
I will talk to my family about my intentions.
An area I need to develop is managing stress. Therefore I will investigate course/workshop/books/online information to help with this. If I can’t do this I will make an appointment to see someone at Otago Polytechnic Student Success for some help and support, or maybe I won’t be stressed now that I have a plan that interests me!
You may prefer to make a mind map to illustrate your action plan.
Career planning, setting goals and taking action are ongoing activities that need to be reviewed and renewed regularly. Now on to the final step in the career plan....Deliver.
"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...."
Put the plan into action
The final step in the career plan is Deliver. Now you need to put your plan into action and make it happen. Start the journey towards a career you will love.
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(1) Vintage war poster, Public Domain images. Image retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/poster-vintage-antique-war-316690/ Licensed under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license.