Choosing a career is a big deal. It’s about so much more than deciding what you will do to make a living. To start with, think about the amount of time we spend at work. We are on the job approximately 71% of every year. Over our lifetimes, this comes out to roughly 31 1/2 years out of the 45 years most of us spend working, from the beginning of our careers until retirement. You should not underestimate the importance of selecting a career that is a good fit for you.
The best way to increase your chances of finding a career with which you will be satisfied is to make a well-thought out decision that follows, in order, the four steps of the career planning process: self-assessment, career exploration, match, and action.
You can attempt to go through the career planning process on your own, or you can hire a career development professional who will help facilitate your journey.
#1 – Self-Assessment
During this first step, you will use a variety of tools to gather information about yourself. You will learn about your:
- Work-related Values
- Personality Type
- Preferred Work Environments
- Developmental Needs
You will identify occupations that might be a good fit for you during this step, but you do not yet have enough information to make a decision.
#2 – Career Exploration
- Read about the occupations that appear to be a good fit based on the results of your self-assessment and learn about any other occupations that interest you.
- Use labor market information to gather more data about these occupations and about the industries in which you might work.
After your preliminary research, you can start eliminating professions that don’t appeal to you and get more details on those that do. This is a good time to conduct informational interviews and arrange job shadowing opportunities. On an informational interview, you will ask people employed in an occupation that interests you questions about his or her job. Job shadowing involves following someone around at work in order to learn more about a career.
#3 – Match
During this phase of the career planning process, you will decide which occupation is the best fit for you based on what you learned during self-assessment and career exploration.
- Identify the occupation in which you are most interested and one or two alternatives on which to fall back if, for any reason, you can’t pursue your first choice.
- Give serious thought to how you will prepare to enter your chosen career, the costs associated with education and training, and whether you will face any barriers. Barriers include family responsibilities, financial difficulties, and disabilities that may interfere with pursuing your goals.
- Go back to the previous phase if you find you need to explore your options further before making a decision.
Once you have chosen a career, you can go to the next step.
#4 – Action
Now it’s time to put together a plan to reach your goals and start moving forward. First, write a career action plan which will serve as a guide that will help you achieve your goals.
- Identify your long-term and short-term goals.
- Once you determine what training you will need, start applying to the appropriate programs. For example, apply to colleges or graduate schools or an apprenticeship program.
- Develop a job search strategy
- Write your resume
- Identify and learn about potential employers
- Compose cover letters
- Prepare for job interviews
It is important to note that the career planning process is a circular one. You may have to go back to the beginning, or to any phase, at some point in your life as you redefine yourself and your goals. For example, you may decide to change your career. You may even have to do this more than once.
– Authored by Dawn Rosenberg McKay