Generally, the planning stage of working towards a fulfilling career, in whatever way, is not a one off process. People used to plan in a very linear way, starting somewhere in secondary or primary school and working towards a ‘dream career’ they would do for the rest of their lives. This is no longer a good idea, even though many people still stick with this way of planning, including teachers. Who can blame them! People are not usually told how much everything has changed, and when they do, it doesn’t seem to affect career planning.
It does affect planning! And everything around it, including other aspects of your life!
I would argue that you need to keep planning through out your life. Whether you are in a job, to start with, isn’t always down to you. There will be changes in your job situation, the economy, your preferences or circumstances, etc…
The basics of planning
Planning normally comes down to accepting the things you can’t change and changing the things you can, if necessary.
I would say that there are two ways to plan:
Working towards a ‘dream career’
The top way looks like ‘the old fashioned way’ to plan. There still is a lot of validity to think about a career you would really want to do and then plan towards it. If you would like to be a medical doctor or vet for instance, you need to be strongly aware of what you need to get in. These are very long routes which require certain grades, a lot of commitment to the subject and awareness of what the job will involve This prevents you from aiming for something that doesn’t suit you and spending a lot of time, effort, money, sweat and tears getting there. This is the key to this way of planning:
always keep an open mind and be prepared to cut your losses and change direction if it makes sense to do so!
This is an easy way to plan, or it looks like it does. You explore what kind of career you would like to do, you make a decision, and off you go. There are several resources on here, especially in the ‘useful links’ section, which will help you explore careers to make a decision. As I mentioned, planning is never finished and a lot comes into choosing a career path.
What if the career you chose is no longer what you want to do/no longer viable or available/no longer suitable? Some careers do disappear! Even if your job is fairly stable with a lot of demand/shortage of staff, like medicine, you ideally need to stay on top of developments within the sector or job and also developments within you or your circumstances, so you can respond appropriately, well-informed and timely when you need to. Keeping your finger on the pulse (pardon the pun) also ensures you are aware of and prepared for any opportunities that come up in the short term.
Step by step planning
Planning step by step, or ‘scary planning’ as some may call it, looks like it’s more in tune with the world of work these days. There are some serious pitfalls here too, however. It’s easy to feel you are drifting and not getting anywhere by following this way to plan. This would depend on your personality to some extent. Some people feel really anxious if they don’t have a clear goal to aim for, others are more relaxed about planning step by step. Where do you fit in?
How do I choose my next step?
Step by step planning requires you to know about yourself and the opportunities out there, so you can make well-informed, realistic decisions that suit you and your circumstances.
Choosing your next step when your next step doesn’t need to lead to something very specific:
When it comes to university courses, college courses or opportunities that keep your options open, you could choose options by asking yourself which of the options:
- Do I like most?
- Would I be best at?
- Fulfils my short term, long term (or both) requirements and preferences most?
When it comes to choosing university or college courses, the top two are the most important ones as they will ensure sufficient motivation and potential to do well.
Choosing your next step when your next step is leading on to something specific:
This is where you need to be slightly more careful as options will start closing down. For instance, if you choose to do an apprenticeship and you later decide to become the doctor in the example above, you will need to add a lot of extra work and time to get there. There is also the risk of competition, that someone will look at your profile and decide it’s ‘not traditional enough’. I know it can be the opposite and a non-traditional route can offer benefits, but it’s up to you to convince them and they may not allow you the time to do so. Examples of options which are more specific could be: a college course in hairdressing or bricklaying, an apprenticeship in something specific or a job that will mean a long term commitment to being away from home so the chances of applying for something else are narrowed down because you can’t go to interviews.
If you do apply step by step planning to something that’s more specific, you need to be really on your game as the decision you make matters more. You may not be completely stuck for the rest of your life, but you’re more committed to the specific option you are taking in time, skills or opportunities after. This means you need to be absolutely sure it’s the best thing to do by looking at yourself, the opportunity and its longer term implications.
Planning in a forever changing world.
There are no certainties in this world. Anything can happen during your lifetime and many of us will know periods of unemployment, struggle in work or private life or illness. This is the main reason why planning isn’t a one off thing. You don’t have to sit back and let these things have the impact they can have if you’re not prepared. Of course, these all will have an impact, that’s unavoidable. But you can do a lot to either turn things around or to minimise the negative impact they do have. This third way of planning is called Planned Happenstance. You plan to take advantage to come into contact with opportunities you don’t expect and you have a way to cope with any negative instances in your life. Planned change, rather than knee jerk reaction or worse.
Most people will say that career planning is a process of:
- Getting to know yourself well
- Followed by knowing about opportunities ‘out there’
- And then matching the two – finished!
or has it finished?
Have a look at the adapted planning grid from the top of this page:
You’ll see that some of the items on either side are far from fixed. So the conclusion has to be that any decision can only be temporary. This is supported by all the things that have happened in the world, the economy, within companies and automatically therefore in work opportunities. Adding to this, the constant stream of technical developments and their impact on the economy and the world of work and you know nothing stays fixed for long.
Therefore, instead of one decision or a linear way of deciding, we need to make decisions and then come back to them, restarting the cycle, if and when something changes.