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Career Planning – Inside Information, Examples, Q&A

The Inside Information to Career Planning

On average, you will probably change careers seven to ten times during your life. Sometimes you change careers because of changes in your own needs, desires, and requirements. Sometimes you must switch careers due to changes in your profession or industry outside your control. For these reasons, career management and planning should be a life-long endeavor. The first step in career planning is determining whether your current career meets your personal and professional needs.


Are You in the Right Career?


To help determine whether you are in the right career, ask yourself some of the following questions:


·    Do you enjoy going to work most days?

·    Do you enjoy what you do on the job?

·    Are you motivated to seek advancement in your career?

·    Are you willing to put in the extra effort to succeed in your career?

·    Are you in a stable or growing profession?

·    Do the requirements of your career match your lifestyle?

·    Are you satisfied with the time commitment your career requires?

·    Where do you see your career taking you in the next three to five years?


If you answered “Yes” to many of these questions, you are probably in the right career. For you, career planning will entail seeking ways to learn and grow in your career. You must determine what skills and characteristics to develop, and what additional experience you need to continue your professional development. If you answered “No” to more than a few of these questions, it may be time to consider a new career.


Gather Information about Yourself


When researching a new career, you first need to understand more about your own personal and professional goals. You should develop a clear sense of what you enjoy doing, what you don’t enjoy, and the balance you are seeking between career and lifestyle. Review the following topics to help determine your personal and professional needs.



What are you good at? What do others say you do well? What do you learn easily? Make an inventory of these skills, abilities, and talents and consider jobs or careers that require these attributes.



What do you enjoy doing? What do you wish you had more time to do? What field of study do you want to learn more about? What classes have you taken in the last three years? You will devote more energy to your career if you enjoy your work.



What is important to you? What will keep you motivated and energized? Decide how important things like salary, time off, prestige, and work environment are to you and use these criteria when thinking about your new career.



Environment is the number one reason people feel dissatisfied with their career choice. Ask yourself, do you prefer working independently or as part of a team? Do you enjoy being recognized for your work? Would you prefer to have a limited set of tasks, or to perform new and different tasks on a regular basis? Would you rather work indoors or outdoors? Are you a leader or a follower? Are you looking for an environment that allows for creativity? Problem solving? Self-expression? Adventure? Social interaction? Be honest with yourself and decide how your personality fits a particular career path.



What do you want most out of a job? List each of these items and prioritize them. In most careers, there are trade-offs. For instance, you may not be able to negotiate both a high salary and a 20-hour workweek.


Once you have performed this self-assessment use ResumeMaker’s Career Planner to perform an exercise that creates a personal profile based on your needs, talents, interests, values, and ideal work environment; and then generate a list of possible career choices based on the personal and professional choices you have made. Additional self-assessment tests are available that measure personality type, skills and abilities, and personal aptitudes. Career counselors often use these exercises to determine what career is best for you. You can find these and other tests on the Internet by searching for “self-assessment tests” or “personality profile” in your favorite Internet search engine.


Deciding Your Career


When you have identified a list of potential careers, you can begin researching your options. To gather more information on a potential career, use your local library or the Internet to access resources such as the Occupational Handbook from the Department of Labor, articles in local and national magazines, and articles contained in industry or career-specific trade publications.


When considering jobs within a career, compare what you have learned about yourself through self-assessment exercises to the skills, abilities, aptitudes, and characteristics required for success in that position.


·    Would you enjoy and excel at the day-to-day tasks required for the position?

·    How would this job affect the balance between professional and personal life?

·    How do you see yourself growing in this career?

·    What would represent your next career step, and does the position you are considering prepare you for these career goals?


Asking these and other questions, and then researching the answers, can help you narrow your choices and find the ideal career.


Develop a Career Transition Plan


If you have decided to make a career change, you will need a career transition plan. Developing a plan with weekly and monthly goals can help ensure success in your career transition. Set a time line for accomplishing each of your objectives. If you require additional education or training, set dates for choosing a school, enrolling in your classes, and completing your education. If you already possess the necessary skills and abilities for your new career, create a plan for organizing and conducting your job search. Set dates for updating your resume and cover letter to include new and relevant transferable skills, identifying target companies and positions, and planning interviews. Developing a proactive plan, and then following it, is the most effective way to launch a new career.


Get Assistance from a Career Counselor


There are many career counselors that specialize in helping people transition to a new career. Career counselors can provide a variety of services, including:


·    Administering and analyzing self-assessment tests

·    Helping you develop job-hunting skills and strategies

·    Assisting in writing your resume

·    Helping you prepare for an interview

·    Assisting in negotiating a job offer


When choosing a career counselor to work with, be sure to check their background, education, and credentials. The Expert Advice section in ResumeMaker includes a listing of certified career counselors affiliated with ResumeMaker. We recommend contacting any of the career experts on this list to assist you in planning your career.


Informational Interviewing


What is an Informational Interview?

Ever wondered what a general contractor’s typical day is like? Are you curious about what a geologist does? Have you considered a career as a dietician, but you don’t know much about a dietician’s work environment? Are you considering a career change from teaching to retail store management and want to find out more about a manager’s typical duties? All of these questions are reasons to conduct an informational interview. An informational interview is an interview with someone in your targeted field, ideally in the exact position that you are considering. During the interview you can learn firsthand about the career and position that you are considering.


When you conduct an informational interview, you can address a broad range of topics – from the elements of a typical work day/week/month to the outlook for advancement in the career and growth in the industry. If you are a student, you can use the informational interview to help you choose elective courses and specializations as well as your major and minor course of study. By discussing working conditions and future prospects with a professional in the field, you will gain insight into the likely consequences of career decisions that you are considering. Find out all you can to help you make informed career decisions. You don’t want to study for four or six years to discover that the career you’ve chosen is radically different than what you had imagined. Likewise, you don’t want to trade a successful career for a risky opportunity in which you have little chance to succeed. Choosing a career is one of the vital decisions in your life, and you should decide your career based on as much information as you can collect. The informational interview is one such information-gathering tool.


Why Should You Conduct an Informational Interview?

Unlike a job interview, the goal of an informational interview is not to obtain a job offer. Instead the informational interview is designed to help you learn about a career and a specific position. You are the interviewer, not the interviewee. You should come away from the informational interview with a clear idea of what the interviewee’s typical job duties are, what his normal working conditions are like, and what his vision of the prospects for the profession are. Ideally, you should talk to several people in your targeted field at levels above and below your targeted position. This will give you a 360° view of the position. You do not have to conduct all of your informational interviews within the same company. In fact, a better idea is to canvas several companies so that you obtain a broader view of the position and the profession. Remember the goal is to gather information that will help you decide on a career. You are on a fact-finding trip through your potential future career!


When you are interviewing for a job, you are being carefully examined and everything that you say and do is being studied. Your interviewer is trying to make a decision about your potential with her company. Alternatively, when you conduct an informational interview, you are asking the questions and will be making the decisions about future career plans. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take an informational interview seriously and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Even though you aren’t interviewing for a job, you are discussing the profession with a potential future colleague – perhaps a future supervisor or even a future employee. Make the best impression that you can. Later, when you are job hunting, your informational interviewees may agree to become part of your job search network, if you managed to impress them positively.


Here are some points to consider when planning and conducting an informational interview:


  1. Be punctual, don’t make the interviewee wait for you, be prepared 10-15 minutes beforehand and use the time to make any final preparations for the interview.
  2. Be prepared, organize your questions, and record the responses with a handheld recorder (with your interviewee’s permission) or take notes.
  3. Give an accurate estimate of the time you will need to ask your questions and ask the most important ones first – stick to your time estimate, don’t abuse your interviewee’s time.
  4. Let the interviewee do the talking, use active listening skills to indicate that you are focused on her answers, ask intelligent follow-up questions when appropriate.



How Should You Conduct an Informational Interview?

The first step in informational interviewing is determining whom you should interview. Research the profession that you are interested in to determine the typical job titles used for the position you are targeting. Then, locate companies that employ people with those titles. You can use the Internet, business guides, and local directories to locate likely companies. To locate individuals to interview, you can call the company’s Personnel or Human Resources department, and explain what you are doing. They will be able to direct you to the appropriate individual. Alternatively, you can call the main telephone number for an individual department, and ask if you can talk to someone with the appropriate title. Listen carefully and note the potential interviewee’s name, title, and telephone extension.


The next step in the process is very important. You need to convince the potential interviewee to spare some time to talk with you. There are various reasons why someone might agree to help you. The first is basic altruism – some people are naturally inclined to help those who ask for it. Many people are passionate about their profession and enjoy talking with others about it. Often, people are flattered to be asked about their experience and have an interest in sharing their accomplishments. People you interview might also be looking for new talent for their profession and will see you as a potential employee. Whatever the motivation, be professional and direct when explaining your intentions and asking for assistance.


When you have arranged an interview, here are some examples of questions that you can ask:


Job Duties

·    What are your primary job duties?

·    What are your principal job tasks?

·    What are the top five responsibilities in your job?

·    What is the most important task that you do?

·    What is the top priority for your position?


Skills Needed

·    What certifications do you need to be qualified for your job?

·    What licenses should you have to be qualified for your job?

·    What are the top five general skills that you use on the daily basis?

·    What procedures do you use on your job?

·    How did you develop the skills that you use on your job?


Knowledge Needed

·    What college degrees do people in your position typically have?

·    What were the most beneficial courses that you completed in your training?

·    What kind of continuing education opportunities have you had? What was the most useful?

·    What are the principal periodicals in your profession?

·    What other types of knowledge have you needed that you didn’t gain in your educational background?


Most Valuable Experience

·    Of your previous work experiences, which have been the most valuable for success in your career?

·    What additional experience would you recommend for someone entering the profession?

·    How do you recommend that a new person to the profession should gain practical experience? Volunteer organizations? Internships? Mentorships?

·    Have you mentored junior associates? If so, what experiences did you encourage them to pursue?

·    To what degree have your skill, knowledge, and experience been formed on the job?


Typical Work Environment

·    Please describe your physical work environment.

·    Please describe the reporting relationship in your position.

·    How would you characterize the social climate in your department/profession?

·    What technology tools do you typically use?

·    What would you change about your work environment if you could?


Typical Day/Week/Month

·    What is the daily/weekly/monthly pace of work like in your position?

·    Describe the daily/weekly/monthly routine in your position.

·    What is your work schedule like?

·    Are there typical peaks and valleys of activity in your profession?

·    Estimate the percentage of time that you spend on major responsibilities in your position.



·    What is the typical range for a starting salary?

·    Have salary increases accompanied increases in job responsibility?

·    Has pay been tied to job performance?

·    Are bonuses typically paid to people in the profession? To what degree?

·    Are other forms of incentive pay common in the industry?

·    What fringe benefits can someone typically expect to receive?


Significant Challenges

·    What was the most difficult task that you have completed?

·    What are the top five challenges in your position?

·    What are the top five challenges facing the profession?

·    How did you meet your top challenge?

·    What other challenges do you expect to encounter in your position?


Common Obstacles

·    Describe some of the obstacles that you encounter in completing your tasks.

·    What obstacles are commonly found in the profession?

·    What is the most significant threat to the profession?

·    How have you overcome obstacles to your success?

·    What skills have proved to be most useful in overcoming obstacles?


Outlook for the Profession

·    What is your view of the overall outlook for the profession? Do you see growth or decline?

·    What is the most significant change that you have seen in the profession?

·    What is the most significant change that you have experienced in your job?

·    What areas of the profession would you describe as stagnate?

·    What areas of the profession would you describe as hot/popular/in demand?


Potential Career Paths

·    Describe your career path.

·    What other career paths have you observed for people in the profession?

·    What is the most likely next step for you?

·    What is the most common promotion for someone in your position?

·    From what other departments do new employees come into your department?


Likely Entry Points

·    How did you enter the profession?

·    What entry point would you recommend for someone new to the profession?

·    What attributes have been most important for successful new employees?

·    What previous experience has been most important for successful new employees?

·    How valuable is experience in a volunteer or internship position when applying for a new job in the profession?


Degree of Respect

·    How are your efforts respected and valued in your company? In your profession?

·    What opportunities have you had to meaningfully contribute to your profession as well as your company?

·    In what ways is your work valuable to society?

·    Describe the contribution of your work to your company’s profitability.

·    Is the value of your profession increasing or decreasing in society?



·    What degree of autonomy do you have in managing your daily/weekly/monthly activities?

·    In what responsibilities of your position do you have the most self-direction?

·    In what responsibilities of your position are you managed most closely?

·    Describe the quality of the feedback that you receive about your job performance.

·    In what areas would you like more autonomy? More direction?



·    Describe your working relationships with your co-workers.

·    What types of interactions do you have with other professionals in your field?

·    How would you describe the quality of interpersonal interactions with other people in your department? In your company?

·    What is the degree to which the people in your department/company share common goals and aspirations?

·    Give some examples of how your work environment is an enjoyable place in which to work.


Management Support

·    In what ways does management support employee success?

·    How are employee suggestions for improvements treated?

·    How do employees support each other’s success?

·    How informed are you about company goals, successes, challenges, and issues?

·    Are you encouraged to participate in general process improvement?


General Advice

·    What general advice can you give to someone new to the profession?


Following up

After you have conducted your informational interview, send a follow-up thank you note to your interviewee, expressing your appreciation for his time and assistance. Keep the contact information and your notes from each interview for future reference. As you proceed in your career planning and job searching, keep your contacts informed of your progress and solicit any advice or leads for job opportunities. If you have made a strong, positive impression on someone in your targeted profession, he may become a valuable resource in your job search.


Managing Career Transitions


Should You Change Careers?

·    Are you dissatisfied with your current job?

·    Are people in your profession being replaced by technology or overseas workers?

·    Have you reached your maximum potential in your career?

·    Is there another career that interests you more than your current career?

·    Are you looking for lifestyle changes that are not possible to achieve while you are in your current career?

·    Is your current career in decline?

·    Are you relocating to an area where your current position is not in demand?

·    Have you completed a course of study and desire to pursue a career based on your new education?

·    Are you restless in your current career?

·    Do you seek new challenges above and beyond those that you typically encounter in your current career?

·    Is your tour of duty in the military almost over and do you want to return to civilian life?

·    Are you getting ready to retire?


If you answered Yes to these and similar questions, then you should consider changing your career. Some writers have estimated that the average professional will change careers between 5-7 times during their work life. The key to accomplishing a successful career transition is careful planning. In your planning, include the following: a thorough, initial evaluation of the reasons for changing careers, a clear understanding of the effects of a career change, in-depth research into the outlook and requirements for your new career, and a plan for identifying and acquiring new skills you will need.


Career Change Evaluation Process

First, analyze your motivation for changing careers. Compile two lists – one with your anticipated advantages (“Pros”) of a career change and one with your anticipated disadvantages (“Cons”). Here are some example advantages and disadvantages that may apply to your career change:



·    Higher salary

·    More responsibility

·    Less responsibility

·    Better working conditions

·    Better job security

·    More interesting work

·    More valuable work

·    Higher job satisfaction

·    Greater potential for professional growth

·    More free time

·    Better benefits

·    Greater demand for workers

·    More challenges

·    Fewer challenges



·    Lower salary

·    Less responsibility

·    Feeling of “starting over”

·    Degree of uncertainty

·    Educational/licensing/certification requirements

After compiling your lists, review them to determine if you have identified the major advantages and disadvantages for changing careers. Frequently refer to these lists as you proceed to plan your career change. You can use your lists as checklists for each new job opportunity that you consider.


Effects of a Career Change

When considering a career change, you need to anticipate and prepare for the effects that you will encounter. First, there will be personal, emotional changes in your life. You will be entering unfamiliar territory. Your usual routine and environment will be disrupted. Strengths that you have developed in your previous careers have to be reapplied in a new setting. You will encounter completely new situations and challenges. These changes can cause anxiety, uncertainty, and stress. Plan strategies to manage the changes and build a support system to help you succeed.


One of the support elements in your life can be your family and friends. Involve them in your planning process. Share your anxiety, fears, and concerns with them so that they will understand the process you are undertaking and will be able to provide some support. Your career change may directly impact your immediate family as your work routine changes, your attention strays, and your stress level increases. You may need to delegate tasks to devote time to advance your skills and education or conduct your job search. One important function your family can fulfill is to help you relax and reduce the stress that a career transition can create.


Of course, the greatest effect will be the effect to your career. If you have carefully identified the advantages and disadvantage or your new career goal, you will be able to see the ultimate effect of the changes you are making. In the process, however, you may encounter obstacles to your plan that challenge your decisions and test your resolve. For example, if you are changing careers due to foreseeable downturn in your current position, that downturn may occur before you have completed your career transition. If that occurs, you may be laid off from your current job before finding a new position. Your career will seemingly stall. When this happens, stay focused. Your full-time job now becomes your career transition and job search. Put all of your energy into a successful career transition and don’t waste energy in unproductive anxiety and stress.


How Should You Manage a Career Change?


Research New Careers

When you have determined that you should consider changing careers and have evaluated the advantages, disadvantages, and effects of this decision, you need to start managing the process. Your next step is to determine a target career.


There are a number of tools to assist you in this process. You can consult career counselors – schools and government employment agencies offer services and there are private counselors as well. You can use technology tools, such as the Career Planner™, to help you identify potential new careers. Discussing options for family, friends, and colleagues is also helpful. Compile a list of promising careers and positions for your next step.


As mentioned elsewhere, conducting informational interviews is a way to gather rich information on the specifics of a profession. Unlike traditional job interviews, informational interviews are occasions when you ask questions about the targeted career and position. You are on a fact-finding tour of a profession.


In addition to the information that you gather in informational interviews, you should also research the forecasted job outlook for your targeted career and position. Is there growth in this area? Is the area subject to overseas outsourcing? Will professionals in the field be replaced by enhanced automation? Will there be a steady increase in the demand for professionals in the field?


As you review the job outlook, also note the popular locations for your targeted position. Have these types of jobs moved from inner cities to suburbia, from urban areas to rural areas, or from the north to the south? Perhaps your targeted position is in equal demand wherever you are located. Consider location as one of the factors when planning and managing your career transition.


Evaluate Education and Skills Needs

When you have identified the positions you will seek in your new career, compile a list of the job requirements for those positions. Collect this information from your informational interview notes, career profiles, and position announcements. Organize the requirements and then ask a professional in the field to review your list. Make sure that you have identified the major requirements of your targeted position.


Next, based on your latest resume, identify your current skill set and educational background. Include specific skills and training as well as more general traits and educational attainments. When considering a career transition, many people ignore their more general, transferable skills and focus instead on their lack of specific experience in the new career. By identifying general traits, you can apply these to the specific requirements of a new position by relating the underlying commonality. For instance, if the new position requires you to manage the order processing system, you can relate this requirement to the organizational skills that you developed in your previous career when you maintained your student’s academic records.


With the list of job requirements and your list of skills, you can conduct what is known as a gap analysis. In this process, you match your skills to the job requirements. After the initial comparison, review the job requirements that did not match one of your skills. Is there an underlying skill or trait that you have which relates to the job requirement? If no skill matches the requirement, then this identifies a gap in your profile. These gaps are indicators that further training is necessary.


The final step to prepare for your career transition is to enhance your skills and education based on the gaps that you have identified in your profile. There are many options for this step. You can attend training courses – instructor-led, on-line, self-paced, or computer-based. You can volunteer or serve as an intern to learn on the job. For more formal learning, you can enroll in a certificate, license, or degree program in which you will complete a series of courses. With these new skills in your profile, you are ready to launch your new career.


The following sections provide you with special considerations for making a career transition.


Military to Civilian Transitions

One of the challenges in returning to civilian life from the military is mapping your military skills to civilian job requirements. Some military positions have fairly close civilian counterparts, but many times you will have to adjust your military skill to one that matches a civilian job requirement. For example, if you were a specialist in maintaining weapons systems, you might consider a career that involves the maintenance of complex machinery and the management of hazardous material.


Related to skill mapping is the necessity of translating military terminology into civilian terminology. Anyone who has served in the military understands that there is a unique language associated with almost all aspects of military operations. If the person screening you for your targeted civilian position does not have experience working with military terms, he will not understand your background. You are responsible for providing the translation of the military terms to civilian terms. For instance, when discussing your skills, do not refer to your primary MOS – instead explain that the military carefully classifies skills and describe your specializations in civilian terms. Using military jargon and acronyms will only confuse your civilian interviewers.


Similarly, you will find that military organization structures and decision-making processes differ to a great extent from civilian structures and processes. During your tours of duty, you have learned to work within the military system. The transition to civilian employment is no different. You will have to understand and adjust to the civilian systems.


Public Sector to Private Sector Transitions

When moving from the public sector to the private sector, you must convert the skills you’ve developed in building constituency relationships and support to those needed to work successfully within corporate managerial structures. For example, the organizational skills necessary to conduct an election campaign can translate to those needed to launch a new product.


Another technique that will help with this type of transition is to analyze the skills required for the public service tasks you’ve mastered and identifying the general traits that underlie these skills. For instance, you may have been involved in reviewing development proposals as a member of the planning commission. Underlying this task is the ability to organize complex documents and analyze complicated projects for potential obstacles. This general skill is required in many private sector careers.


In the private sector, great attention is devoted to managing public resources responsibly. In the private sector, more attention is devoted to profit generation as a measure of success. Understanding this difference in goals will not only help in your career transition but will also help you set your priorities in your new position.


Teacher to Private Industry Transitions

Successful teachers develop a wide range of general skills that are transferable to many other careers. One technique to prepare for a career transition from teaching is to relate the classroom management skills you’ve developed to private industry job requirements. For example, the skills required to develop individualized daily and weekly learning plans for students are based on the same underlying skills that are required to develop and manage the daily and weekly performance goals for clerical workers, sales staff, or maintenance technicians.


While working within a large, complex system with hierarchical reporting relationships as well as cross-functional teams, teachers often enjoy a certain degree of autonomy and self-direction in managing student learning. These skills compare most directly to skills needed for management roles in private industry.


Instruction is another area where a teacher’s skills can translate directly to skills needed in private industry. A teacher who has developed a lesson on effective writing techniques, delivered and refined the writing lesson over a period of years, and coached students to acquire the target techniques will be ideal to mentor new employees, explaining company procedures to them and coaching them on effective job performance.


Part-time to Full-time Transitions

The transition from a part-time position to a full-time position may not be an actual career transition. In order words, you may be staying within your current career and just increasing the amount of time you spend working. Even if this is the case, you still need to manage the transition and be prepared for some changes. Chief among those changes is the impact of a longer work day or work week on your current lifestyle. Prepare yourself to be more organized with household management chores and errands. Anticipate ending your day and week with less energy and a greater need for relaxation. Prepare yourself and those around you for a greater amount of stress in your life.


When transitioning to full-time employment, ensure that you clarify your motivation for the change. Do you need to earn more money? Are you returning to a previous career to continue a career path that you may have interrupted? Are you bored with too much free time due to working a part-time schedule? Whatever your motivation, keep reminding yourself of the reasons that you are changing from part-time to full-time employment to help you cope with the effects on your lifestyle.


Full-time to Part-time Transitions

Comparable to the effect of moving from part-time employment to full-time employment on your lifestyle, changing from full-time employment to part-time employment can also have significant effects. Perhaps the most obvious effect is a decrease in salary and benefits, but you may not anticipate a lower corporate status and less job security. Part-time employees can easily be ignored or excluded from company functions, communication, and programs. If a company experiences a drop in profits, part-time employees are usually the easiest ones to dismiss.


As you transition from full-time to part-time employment, you will have more time available for other activities. A challenge that you might encounter is a need to balance your other activities with your part-time work schedule. Even though you are no longer a full-time employee, your company has expectations and job performance standards that you must meet.


Consulting to Traditional Employment Transitions

The lifestyle of a consultant often differs from that of a traditional employee. Among the changes that you should anticipate involve adjusting to your employer’s setting and structure, adopting your employer’s procedures, and modifying your work schedule to meet your employer’s needs. Balancing these issues are other aspects that you no longer need to manage, such marketing your services, billing and collecting fees, and managing your business finances.


Another adjustment for a consultant is that of accepting increased oversight and direction both on projects and on regular tasks. As a traditional employee, your work is usually more continually reviewed than it was as a consultant.


Your former consulting clients will also need to be managed. Unless you have made arrangements with your employer, you probably won’t have the time to keep providing services to your former clients. They will have to arrange for consulting services elsewhere. One way to manage this transition is to gradually work up to full-time status with your employer while finishing projects with consulting clients or helping them locate other assistance.


Traditional Employment to Consulting Transitions

When you decide to assume the role of an independent consultant, you should have developed a preliminary group of clients. Marketing yourself to potential clients is an ongoing task for most consultants. They need to plan continuously for their next contract as they complete their projects. Identifying the marketing and client management requirements is essential to achieving a successful transition from traditional employment to independent consulting.


As you work with a variety of clients, you will have to address issues of your professional loyalty and manage any conflicts of interest. For example, if you are providing advice to help develop the marketing campaign for a new product, you cannot let the information you gather working on the campaign influence your work with competing companies.


Working as a traditional employee in a company gives you a certain degree of security that is no longer an aspect of your consulting business. Among the transition plans you need to make is one for the ongoing funding of your business, especially in your early years of consulting. Anticipating lapses in revenue will help your business weather rough economic times.


Ensuring Initial Success in a New Position


You’ve landed that exciting, new position that you’ve sought for the past 18 months. Tomorrow is the first day on your new job. What can you do to ensure that you will be successful? Here are three tips to help you become a successful and valued employee:

  • Make a positive first impression.
  • Understand your priorities.
  • Work to fit in with the culture.


Positive First Impressions

The initial impression that you give people affects their assessment of your knowledge and skills. To ensure that their first impression of you is positive always be on time or slightly early to meetings and appointments. Also, prepare ahead and organize your thoughts and notes so that you demonstrate your ability to manage your resources and tasks. Being late and fumbling to find information erodes other people’s confidence in your abilities.


In the initial tasks that you are assigned, show your self-motivation and self-direction as much as you can. Granted, there will be situations early in your employment when you will need to check with your supervisor or a colleague to verify your understanding of company procedures or standards, but be aware of how often you seek assistance and try to minimize any interruptions. Perhaps it would be convenient to schedule your requests for assistance so that they are less disruptive.


Of course, the primary measure of any employee’s success is the degree to which tasks are completed correctly and on time. Build your supervisor’s and colleagues’ first impression of your work on your competence and habit of consistently following through on your assignments. Double check your work for errors. Plan enough time in your schedule to allow you to review your writing or calculations before submitting them to your supervisor.


Throughout your employment maintain a high energy level and a positive attitude about your work and environment. This is especially important while you are learning the details of your responsibilities and the work ethic and processes of your new company and department. You are the one who will need to learn and adapt to a new way of working. Don’t enter a new position with the initial impression that you can dictate changes to match your expectations or previous experience. Even a well-seasoned top executive first surveys the current situation before implementing changes.


Understanding Your Priorities

You may find it helpful to organize your tasks into categories that indicate their importance. For example, you can list tasks by time periods (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly), or by level (e.g., individual, work group, departmental, corporate), or by importance (e.g., vital, very important, somewhat important, background). The purpose of listing your tasks is to help you understand your priorities and ensure that you accomplish your highest priority tasks on time.


When you have composed your list, review it with your manager. This is important to two reasons: first, you avoid returning to your manager to ask what your priorities should be whenever you identify a task; and second, you show your manager your progress in understanding your job duties. Here are some typical tasks:

  • Daily tasks – closing out the cash register, tallying receipts, returning telephone and e-mail messages, processing mail, scheduling appointments
  • Weekly tasks – balancing accounts, updating status reports, scheduling workers, monitoring inventory, maintaining records and minutes, monitoring sales forecasts
  • Longer term tasks – maintaining sales quotas, hiring new employees, supervising employees, reviewing industry trends, developing plans, forecasting budgets, preparing promotional materials


Fitting In

The first and foremost aspect of your fit with your new company is whether you are contributing to the company’s success. This information needs to come to you from your manager in the form of feedback on your job performance. If you are noted for doing excellent work on time, then you are well on your way to realizing success within your first 90 days on the job. The other aspects of your work are less important than your manager’s assessment of your performance. If your manager doesn’t arrange feedback sessions with you, then request to have them on a regular basis – for instance, at the end of the first week, after two weeks, at the end of the first month, and then at the end of the third month. Be sensitive to your manager’s availability, but show your manager that you believe job performance feedback is essential to your success. When you do meet with your manager, ask her to comment on your job performance, and then listen carefully and take notes. Do not interrupt or attempt to explain or argue. Your manager’s assessment of your efforts is critical. When she has assessed your performance, ask for some specific advice on improving your performance. Listen and take notes. Convert your notes to an action plan and a checklist for your next meeting with your manager.


Perhaps in your meetings with your manager or in your daily responsibilities you have encountered areas in which your knowledge or skill level is lacking. In this case, you should investigate the resources available to you to increase your knowledge and hone your skills. Your company may have a training department or an online resource that you can use to learn more about your job. Confirm with your manager the importance of the knowledge or skill you’ve identified. Show your initiative in addressing your own learning needs and present a plan to meet those needs. Other available resources could include online courses, extra reading, orientation sessions, or traditional courses. The goal is to improve your knowledge and skill so that you easily fit into the professional culture of your company.


Another aspect of your fit with your new company involves your working relationships with your co-workers. In your first three months on the job, seek opportunities to meet informally with others in the company. Learn the company’s history and each person’s role in the history. Focus initially on your immediate co-workers and then gradually branch out to include colleagues in other departments or work groups. By networking with your colleagues you can better understand your role in the organization by learning their perspective of your position.


Developing a Career Plan



Are you planning on how you are going to make a living after graduation? Have you been floating for one job to another without any clear direction? Are you evaluating college majors and degree programs and need to research potential careers? Have you reached the highest point in your current career and need to change careers to advance further? Are you considering alternate job offers and need to evaluate each in terms of your ultimate career goals? Are you planning to enhance your education and need to identify future career opportunities that you might encounter? Have you been offered a promotion and need to consider the effects of your decision to accept the offer?


The career decisions that underlie these questions are best considered in the light of a career plan. Your career plan is a multi-year outline of where you would like to take your professional career.


Purpose of a Career Plan

Your career plan serves a variety of purposes based on your industry, your profession, and your experience. The career plan for someone in the retail services industry may outline steps from sales staff positions up through store management. The career plan for a dentist may involve starting and growing a practice and perhaps leading a team of dental professionals. A welder’s career plan may identify advancement through acquisition of additional skills. The career plan for a middle manager may outline a path to upper management. The career plan for a mother of adolescent children may lead to her return to traditional full-time employment through series of part-time positions. The career plan for a retiring military police officer may define a target civilian security position and list the steps to move from the military occupation to a new career as a civilian.


As shown in the previous examples, one role of a career plan is to identify any education, skill, or experience needs that your career goals may require. This information helps you choose courses, majors, and degree programs. Your career plan can also identify licenses or certifications that your career will require. By planning ahead, you can enhance your education and skills in anticipation of career advancement so that your qualifications for a promotion are well supported. Your plan can help you seek and obtain opportunities to gain appropriate experience for your future career. For example, while in school, you may enhance your experience in a teaching career by working or volunteering in a local pre-school or after-school program.


A career plan isn’t solely directed to identifying goals in your distant future. You can use your plan to evaluate career opportunities as you encounter them. You cannot accurately forecast all of the opportunities that you will meet in your career. However, if you have a well-crafted plan, you can analyze unexpected opportunities by comparing them with goals identified in your plan. Your plan can become a litmus test for professional career decisions that you need to make. For example, suppose your manager approaches you with the following offer: “There is an opening for a manager in the warehouse. The vice president asked me if you’d be interested in a promotion.” If you have a predefined career plan, you can evaluate this offer based on your ultimate career objectives. Will the warehouse manager position bring you closer to your career goal or will it divert you from the path that you have identified? You can then base your answer on more than a spur-of-the-moment response.


In developing your career plan, you will be directing your energy to longer term goals instead of less important, but more immediate, tasks. In this way, your career plan helps you focus and devote your energy to the most important steps for your career development. For instance, in your job you may be asked to prepare two reports – one identifying an immediate response to a competing product and another that outlines a development strategy for a new product line. In your career plan, you’ve identified your goal to become a high-level product development manager. While the immediate response report is critical in the short term, the longer range strategy will support your career goals and benefit the company far into the future. While you should develop two quality reports, your career plan will be better advanced by putting extra energy and time into the long term strategy.


You can also think of your career plan as a road map. The journey you are on is your professional career and your map is your plan. The cities you are visiting are the jobs that you have identified. The roads are the steps you have listed that lead you from one job to the next. On your plan, you can track your professional progress just like you would your location on a map. The plan helps you evaluate alternate routes and shows you when you have reached your destination.


Your career plan doesn’t necessarily identify a vertical path through your chosen profession. Instead, your plan could illustrate how to move from your current profession into a new one. As you consider, research, evaluate, and explore opportunities in other careers, your plan can help keep you on course and guide your career transition. Among the elements in a career transition plan are assessments of your transferable skills, your strengths and weaknesses, and your interests. You should also identify the requirements of your new career. What additional educational requirements are there for your new career? What new skills will you need? What is your target entry point into your new career? Once you enter your new career what is your career path to your ultimate goal?


Types of Career Plans

The most common career plans are time-based, covering a 3-, 5-, or even 10-year span of time. Planning within a predetermined time span allows you to plan your activities and gauge your progress more readily. In a 3-year plan, you can identify steps to take on a monthly basis; while, in a 10-year plan, your planning frame might be in terms of years.


Other career plan types address specific career events, such as a transition between careers, a return to the traditional workplace, or even a plan for gradual retirement. While these plans might also be time-based, they could also be based on milestone events, such as meeting an educational goal, sending your kids to college, or reaching early retirement age. The type of plan that you choose for your career depends upon your specific needs. If your life is too hectic to consider more than three years at a time, then focus on developing the best 3-year plan that you can.


Timeline for Updating Your Career Plan

If the circumstances of your life don’t change, then your career plan doesn’t need to be updated very often. However, a stable, unchanging life seems to be a rare find in the increasingly hectic work environment. Professional events can affect your career plan, such as economic downturns, layoffs, relocations, technological advances, and corporate mergers. Personal events, such as illness, divorce, death of a spouse, and natural catastrophes, can also affect your career plan. Typically, a career plan should be updated on an annual basis to account for progress in the past year and anticipate new future developments. If you experience professional or personal events that affect your career plan, then you should update your plan to account for the life occurrences that you’ve encountered. As you update your career plan, save the previous versions of your plan so that you can continue to map your progress back through your past plans. If you annually update your plan and plan out the same number of years, you will always be on Year 1 of your plan, which seems like you are never making progress. Try creating a summary of the previous years’ goals and accomplishments to help remind yourself of the career progress you’ve made.


3-year Career Plan Template

Focus on career growth within your current work setting.


Career Goal



Consider the career outlook in your current position, and then set a short-term career goal, identifying the setting and location for your career path.



Within 2-3 years, acquire the necessary skills and experience to move from frontline sales staff to a supervisory position within Acme Fashion Outlets at a location in the greater Bay Area.


Current Situation



Describe your current work setting and the responsibilities of your position.



Worked six months as junior sales associate in Women’s Fashions department of Pleasantville store. Provide customer service, manage inventory, handle sales and returns, maintain attractive shopping atmosphere.


Education/Skill/Experience Assessment



Identify any courses, degrees, specialties, licenses, certificates, volunteer activity, and memberships/affiliations that you have attained. List the skills that you typically use in your current position.



Hold AA degree in business. Have attended Acme orientation and training programs on sales effectiveness, POS operation, and customer service. Have volunteered for community charity fashion shows and staffed local hospice store during weekends. Punctual, organized, accurate with receipts and records, flexible with scheduling, friendly with customers and co-workers, eager to learn new skills, and suggest ways to improve sales.


Target Job Requirements



List the education, skills, and experience necessary to achieve your goal.



Acme Supervisor training, experience tracking inventory and controlling slippage, basic accounting skills, merchandise marketing training and experience, lead sales person and assistant supervisor experience.


Education Goals



Identify steps to attain the education goals required for the target job.



Enroll in an online accounting course for retail sales professionals. Request to attend Supervisor and merchandise marketing training.


Skill Goals



Identify steps to attain the skill goals required for the target job.



Meet with store merchandise manager to learn more about merchandise marketing and assist with promotional displays. Practice accounting skills learned online by assisting with end-of-day and end-of-week sales records.


Experience Goals



Identify steps to attain the experience goals required for the target job.



Volunteer for supervisor backup role. Provide leadership/mentorship to new associates. Arrange schedule to serve as senior sales person during less popular working hours.


Career Action Plan



List specific action steps within your target timeframe that will lead to your career goal.



Month 1Plan for skills/education enhancement
Month 2Enroll/attend accounting, merchandising, and supervisory training
Month 3Continue training
Months 4-6Obtain training completion certificate
Months 6-12Volunteer for position involving professional practice
Year 2Pursue promotion within current department based on new skills
Year 3Begin participating in tasks beyond department


5-year Career Plan Template

Focus on career growth within your current company.


Career Goal



Consider the career outlook in your current position, and then set a medium-term career goal, identifying the setting and location for your career path.



Within 3-5 years, complete a master’s degree in Computer Security to support advancement from Computer Technician to Network Security Officer within PNA Inc.


Current Situation



Describe your current work setting and the responsibilities of your position.



Worked two years as computer technician for PNA Inc, a third tier Internet services provider. Maintain computer hardware and operating systems, perform routine maintenance, troubleshoot system performance issues, handle level 2 trouble reports.


Education/Skill/Experience Assessment



Identify any courses, degrees, specialties, licenses, certificates, volunteer activity, and memberships/affiliations that you have attained. List the skills that you typically use in your current position.



Hold BS degree in computer science and CNE certification. Volunteer at local school to set up and troubleshoot computers and networks. Member of local ACM chapter. Proven competence in computer troubleshooting and repair, excellent attention to detail, develop and perform complex procedures for computer maintenance, careful analysis, self-directed, motivated to understand complex systems, keep detailed and accurate records and logs.


Target Job Requirements



List the education, skills, and experience necessary to achieve your goal.



MS in Computer Networking with Network Security Specialist certificate, Level 3 company security clearance, network operations experience, network troubleshoot skills, thorough knowledge of corporate security policies and procedures, server/router/firewall operations and tuning skills.


Education Goals



Identify steps to attain the education goals required for the target job.



Enroll in master’s degree program and complete courses leading to an MS with specialization in network security. Complete training and obtain Network Security Specialist certificate. Obtain Level 3 security clearance after careful review of company security policies.


Skill Goals



Identify steps to attain the skill goals required for the target job.



Set up home network including server, router, and firewall to practice and refine network tuning and troubleshooting skills.


Experience Goals



Identify steps to attain the experience goals required for the target job.



Volunteer to assist in school network maintenance and troubleshooting. Assist networking staff with security analysis and testing.


Career Action Plan



List specific action steps within your target timeframe that will lead to your career goal.



Quarter 1Enroll in masters program.
Quarter 2Continue education, set up home network.
Quarters 3-4Continue education, volunteer with school network.
Year 2Complete education, obtain degree and certificate, study company security policies, assist network staff as possible, continue volunteer work.
Year 3Obtain Level 3 clearance, pursue opportunities with networking group.
Years 4-5Pursue promotion to Network Security Officer and begin developing relationships with technical personnel in other departments.


10-year Career Plan Template

Focus on career growth within your profession but beyond your current company.


Career Goal



Consider the career outlook in your current position, and then set a long-term career goal, identifying the setting and location for your career path.



Within the next 10 years, attain the position of the leading critical care nurse in a major teaching hospital.


Current Situation



Describe your current work setting and the responsibilities of your position.



Worked for five years as a nursing assistant for the Pleasantville Clinic. Schedule patients and prepare them to meet the medical staff. Assist in routine procedures. Maintain medical equipment and tools. Monitor and order clinic’s medical supplies. Oversee safe disposal of hazardous materials.


Education/Skill/Experience Assessment



Identify any courses, degrees, specialties, licenses, certificates, volunteer activity, and memberships/affiliations that you have attained. List the skills that you typically use in your current position.



Hold AA degree in healthcare services. Volunteer at local preschool to perform rudimentary health screening. Excellent bedside manner with patients, especially children. Highly organized and efficient. Maintain extreme cleanliness. Developed professional rapport with nurses and doctors in clinical setting. Eager to assist in medical services under the close supervision of trained medical staff.


Target Job Requirements



List the education, skills, and experience necessary to achieve your goal.



BS/MS in Nursing with specialization in Critical Care Nursing. Licensure in Emergency Room Nursing, Critical Care Nursing, and Operating Room Nursing. Experience in all areas of nursing within a major hospital.


Education Goals



Identify steps to attain the education goals required for the target job.



Complete a BS in Nursing, focusing on nursing in a hospital setting. Complete an MS in Nursing with concentration in Critical Care Nursing.


Skill Goals



Identify steps to attain the skill goals required for the target job.



Complete clinical practice required as part of BS and MS degree programs. Focus on emergency care, critical care, and operating room nursing skills whenever possible.


Experience Goals



Identify steps to attain the experience goals required for the target job.



In addition to experience obtained in clinical practice outlined above, pursue volunteer opportunities in local clinics and other sites as skills allow. Participate in summer programs where nursing skills can be practiced under the direction of trained medical staff.


Career Action Plan



List specific action steps within your target timeframe that will lead to your career goal.



Years 1-3Enroll in and complete BS program, participating in clinicals and nursing opportunities during the school year and during breaks
Years 4-5Complete MS program, continue volunteer nursing activity during breaks
Year 6Complete licensure as Registered Nurse, obtain hospital-based nursing position
Year 7Complete licensure as Operating Room Nurse
Year 8Complete training for Emergency Care Nurse, transfer to major hospital
Year 9-10Pursue training and licensure for Critical Care Nurse, obtain Critical Care Nurse position, pursue leadership opportunities in the field


Career Transition Plan Template

Manage the transition from your current career into another career.


Career Goal



Consider your interests and the general outlook for different careers, and then set a goal to enter a new career.



Move from a career in structural engineering into a career in teaching at the postsecondary level.


Transferable Skills Assessment



Analyze and list the transferable skills that you have obtained in your current career.



Thorough understanding of the principles and application of physics. Adapt in mathematical routines and models for physical systems. Highly developed technology skills, especially with mathematical tools and visualization programs. Experience leading teams and managing complex projects. Excellent organizational skills. Wealth of experience presenting highly technical information to both technical and non-technical audiences.


Target Job Requirements



List the education, skills, and experience necessary to achieve your goal.



Community College Teaching Credential, knowledge and experience to teach mathematics, physics, and engineering courses, teaching experience at the postsecondary level.


Education Goals



Identify steps to attain the education goals required for the target job.



Research requirements for teaching credential and complete refresher courses as needed. Obtain credential.


Skill Goals



Identify steps to attain the skill goals required for the target job.



Translate presentation, organizational, and management skills developed in former engineering career to the skills needed for a successful community college instructor.


Experience Goals



Identify steps to attain the experience goals required for the target job.



Volunteer as a tutor for mathematics, physics, and engineering students. Teach part-time in adult school settings. Assist with scientific programs in the college computer lab.


Career Action Plan



List specific action steps that will lead to your career goal.



Step 1Obtain teaching credential, pursue volunteer activities
Step 2Teach in a part-time capacity, tutor students, volunteer with science programs
Step 3Pursue full-time teaching positions – develop sample lectures, assignments, and assessments for interviewing


Career Re-entry Plan Template

Outline a strategy to re-enter the traditional workplace into a career of your choice.


Career Goal



Consider your experience, skills, and interests and the general outlook for different careers, and then set a goal to re-enter the workforce.



Return to a general management position after recovering from a debilitating injury that involved a three-year rehabilitation process.


Education/Skill/Experience Assessment



Identify any courses, degrees, specialties, licenses, certificates, volunteer activity, and memberships/affiliations that you have attained. List the skills that you have developed in your past work experience.



BA in Business Management with a background in warehouse and operations management. Part-time volunteer coordinator for local charity during last year of physical therapy rehabilitation. Manage employees including hiring, scheduling, mentoring, disciplining, and firing. Set clear expectations and performance standards. Give consistent and timely feedback on job performance. Highly organized. Analyze processes and procedures to improve quality and efficiency. Adapt at supervising complex operations with multiple personnel in a variety of roles.


Target Job Requirements



List the education, skills, and experience necessary to achieve your goal.



Business degree, management skills, supervisory skills, financial management experience, inventory control experience.


Education Goals



Identify steps to attain the education goals required for the target job.



Complete a refresher course in managerial accounting.


Skill Goals



Identify steps to attain the skill goals required for the target job.



Enhance computer skills with the latest versions of the Microsoft Office suite and Intuit QuickBooks. Develop templates for common business transactions.


Experience Goals



Identify steps to attain the experience goals required for the target job.



Continue volunteer activities and gradually assume greater role in managing the charity’s operations as permitted.


Career Action Plan



List specific action steps that will lead to your career goal.



Step 1Initiate your job search by researching employers, networking with colleagues, developing a winning resume, practicing interviewing techniques, and building a database of contacts. Keep participating in volunteer activities.
Step 2Continue volunteering. Participate in interviews, addressing the recent gap in employment in an honest and complete manner.
Step 3Obtain your target position and begin working on a longer range career plan.


Retirement Plan Template

Plan a gradual transition from full employment to partial employment to retirement.


Retirement Goal



Describe the process by which you want to effect your retirement.



Retire from your position as Vice President of Finance by gradually delegating responsibilities to subordinates.


Current Situation



List the responsibilities that you currently hold and prioritize your delegation of tasks to others.



Tertiary responsibilities (first to be delegated): prepare tax returns, process payroll, balance accounts, conduct banking

Secondary responsibilities: participate as liaison with auditors, prepare financial statements, develop annual budgets

Primary responsibilities (last to be delegated): establish fiscal policy, interact with shareholders, manage investments


Career Action Plan



List specific action steps within your target timeframe that will lead to your retirement.



Year 1Delegate tertiary responsibilities
Year 2Delegate secondary responsibilities
Year 3-5Delegate primary responsibilities

Career Planning - Tips

Before you begin your career search, ask yourself a few questions. What do you want to do? What are you trying to do? What kind of job do you want? By answering these questions at the outset, you create a career plan that focuses your search. Review the following 25 tips organized to help you in your career planning process.


1. Know what skills you enjoy using.


Job-hunting requires going back to “square one.” Make an inventory of your abilities and acquired knowledge; this will assist in making career decisions. You should develop an understanding of yourself including values, interests, aptitudes, abilities, personal traits, and desired lifestyle, and become aware of the interrelationship between you and your occupational choice.


2. Match your interests to career-related skills.


To make a successful career choice, you must match your interests with the skills you want to offer a prospective employer. Try using a self-assessment test to help identify your aptitudes, personality, and interests. These tests allow you to determine your strengths and match them to career-building skills.


3. Identify a career direction.


Career planning is a lifelong process, requiring continuous effort to meet changing employment conditions. To achieve and manage a satisfying career, it is crucial to identify a preferred career direction and to implement effective career-enhancing strategies.


4. Maximize your resources.


There are many resources available to help in planning a career. Use these resources for career assessment, exploration, and planning to help you identify potential careers, gather information about those careers, and match the career to your own assessment of skills. Resources include career-planning software, career workshops, school career service centers, Internet resources, library resource centers, employment service departments, career fairs, and career days.


5. Research occupations.


Find out more about the nature of the jobs that interest you, such as educational requirements, salary, working conditions, future outlook, and anything else that can help you determine the best career for you.


6. Gain practical experience.


Evaluate your occupational choices and gain practical experience through internships, cooperative education, relevant summer employment, volunteer work, and campus activities.


7. Interview people whose occupations interest you.


You can always find someone who has done something that at least approximates what you want to do. If possible, set up personal meetings or phone calls with these people to discuss the nature of their work. You will learn a great deal about your new career and will be better informed when choosing a career direction.


8. Prepare a career portfolio.


Prepare a collection of work samples, a resume, recommendations, a list of references, transcripts, copies of applications, and other pertinent job search tools.


9. Plan your personal job search campaign.


Once you are aware of your career values, interests, and skills and are ready to launch yourself into a new career, you need to plan your personal job campaign. This entails establishing your career goals, planning and organizing your job search campaign, preparing materials, and achieving your job search campaign objectives within the time frame you have set.


10. Begin preparation for a job search.


Before embarking on a new career search, it is crucial to learn how to prepare resumes and cover letters specifically designed for a career change. Additionally, since you will need to practice identifying and communicating your transferable skills, you will need more time to prepare for interviews.


11. Anticipate and prepare for problems.


Planning for potential problems will help ensure your career change goes smoothly. You may not be able to predict exactly what problems might arise, but make a list of potential concerns that may be likely in your case. If you take the time to plan for potentially difficult situations beforehand, you may be able to turn an obstacle into a solvable problem when the need arises.


12. Determine the best way to market yourself.


Think of your job search as a campaign; you are promoting your skills, training, and experience to potential employers. Your career change strategy includes repositioning your resume to highlight your relevant accomplishments, using your network of friends, relatives, and professional contacts to generate job leads, and developing effective interview skills.


13. Determine what skills employers want.


Employers are demanding more skills and accomplishments from their candidates, not just job titles. Find out what skills today’s employers are looking for in your career field by reading the requirements of job advertisements for your occupation.


14. Expand your horizons.


Do not limit yourself to looking for new careers in growing industries. What is hot today is not always hot tomorrow, and there is usually strong competition in these areas. Let your research carry you into unexpected and unanticipated areas. You may be surprised at what you discover.


15. Learn new skills.


From your research, you will know which skills employers value most in your target career field. If you do not possess these skills, you will need training. There is a variety of training options that will help you prepare for a new job: self-learning, workshops, conferences, Internet, e-learning, on-the-job training, and internships. Explore your options and make a choice based on the needs of your career path.


16. Decide which employers to contact.


Once you have completely researched the companies you are interested in working for, determine which companies offer the best potential for career advancement and which companies have positions open in your field. These are the best employers to contact during your initial search and offer the best chance for success.


17. Probe the marketing trends of the workforce.


The better understanding you have about how global events affect the workplace, the more prepared you’ll be to meet the challenges. To learn where the job market is going, it is necessary for you to probe the current trends. Which industries are spurring new jobs and opportunities? What skills will be needed to compete in the future?


18. Develop a daily plan.


Once you have narrowed your career choices, create a workable plan with a schedule for each of the strategies and steps you will take. Map out which activities you will do each day, e.g., Monday and Wednesday will be devoted to networking, Tuesday and Saturday for online job search strategies, etc. and stick with your plan. Your job search needs to be treated as a new job and it is far easier to manage when you give it a structure and have a routine.


19. Start planning now.


If you are unhappy with your present career, and do not start planning a career change now, your attitude may continue to deteriorate and begin affecting your job performance. Begin your job search before your attitude affects your performance and you put your job in jeopardy. This will give you control over the time you can spend on your search and your ability to find the right job to transition to. Additionally, you will maintain your reputation as a quality employee.


20. Assess your career choices.


Compare the facts you have collected about yourself and facts you have collected about jobs and decide questions such as: Can you see yourself carrying out all the different duties of the job? Would you be happy doing those tasks? Can you use your abilities in that job? Does this career satisfy your needs? Based on these and other questions, decide which job is best for you.


21. Discuss career choices with people you know.


Talk to friends, parents, teachers and career counselors. Brainstorm with them; let them know what your interests and skills are and they may be able to think of possible career choices that you were not able to identify.


22. Maximize your online resources.


There are many sites on the Internet, which discuss the thousands of career options available. Discover a variety of these sites by typing “career planning” or “career” into your favorite Internet search engine.


23. Narrow your focus.


After all of the researching, interviewing, exploring, and assessing you have completed, you should have a general idea of your likes and dislikes and a general idea of what you are good at. Now it is time to focus on the specific careers that maximize all of these areas.


24. Look for new career ideas in all areas of your life.


New careers can be built on ideas from anywhere. Look for, or create, environments in which they can flourish. Foster creativity in all areas of your life: at work, in traffic, or while shopping. Make brainstorming a part of your career search. Encourage others to help you generate new ideas. Use outside sources for new thoughts. Break your routines. Go to a library, museum, or city hall. Read a different newspaper or magazine. See a different kind of movie. You want new ideas and they can come from anywhere.


25. Be Patient.


Be patient and be realistic. Do not expect a glamorous career to appear immediately. Use your common sense, listen to other people’s advice, be yourself in interviews, and do the necessary work it will take to find the right job in a new career.

Qustions and Answers - Carreer Planning

How do I figure out what I want to do?


If you are thinking about your first real job or changing the kind work that you do, there are two steps. First, there are a number of good vocational guidance tests, which you can take at a minimal expense. These help you gain some insight into your strengths and preferences. The second step is just as important. Speak to people in various lines of work and various industries. Find out what they like about their work, what they don’t like, and how they do their job. Then compare that information to the needs and desires you have for your own career. This will help you identify the type of job that you will find satisfying.


What if I want a life, not just a job?


Many people ask, “What if I want a life and not just a job? How do I balance the two?” There are two things to remember. First, realize that mix between degree of devotion to your job and the other aspects of your life is up to you. If you’re willing to give up on some career progress for the sake of family or other interests, that’s your decision. Just understand the costs associated with your choices and compare them with the potential reward. Second, keep in mind that your job influences the rest of your life and there is an influence of the rest of your life on your job, so it may never be possible to separate the two completely.


Can I still have a career in a constantly changing economy?


Many people are concerned that the dramatic and rapid changes in the economy mean that it’s not possible to have a career. It’s really better for us to think that a career now means something different than it did for our parents or our grandparents. It’s true that we’re not going to start out on a certain path when we’re 18 or 20 years old, stay on that path, and retire in 50 years. We’re going to have different jobs; we’re going to have different employers. So now, we should look at a career as something that gives us satisfaction over a long period of time, even if our title is different or if our profession is different. It may mean less job security, but it probably means more personal freedom.


Is there such a thing as employment security today?


Employment security today means more than doing a good job for your current employer. Because of downsizing, the job you have today may not be there tomorrow. So, job security today means being an attractive employee to your current employer or to another employer if the need should arise.


Now that I have a new job, is my career search over?


Once you find a new job, and decide to accept it, does that mean that your career search is over? Well, not really. First, it’s important to remember all those people who helped you find your new career. Thank them for the advice and assistance they provided in helping you find a new and satisfying career. Second, you may still have many years ahead of you in your career. If so, it’s important to make a list of those things you need to do in the new career to make sure you’re successful. You must think one step ahead, and keep looking for new experiences and challenges that will help you grow your career to the next step.