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  A bit about planning – what is it all about?   Planning with an career idea in mind
  The basics: it looks ‘easy’   Planning if you don’t have a career in mind – step by step
  About making choices   Different ways of looking at making a plan
  2 examples of different ways to plan      


There are so many options out there to choose from? Where do I start??

A bit about planning

Generally, planning is not a one off process. This means you don’t plan all at once when you’re in school to ‘sort out the rest of your life’.

People used to plan, 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.

Who can blame them! People are not usually told how much everything has changed.

It does affect planning! And everything around it, including other aspects of your life!


You need to keep planning throughout your life because things change around you and you change too. Whether you are in a job, to start with, isn’t always down to you. There will also be changes in your job situation, the economy, your preferences or circumstances, etc…


The basics of planning

In its simplest form planning your (career) future comes down to:

  • knowing yourself well and
  • looking at what the options are around you and then
  • making the best match possible

Planning is also about accepting the things you can’t change and changing the things you can, if necessary.

However, you can rarely make a completely free decision and it will depend on a lot of things.


Making choices

What are the things that influence you making any choice?

These are some examples of what can influence the choices we make. It’s important to know that we influence all these examples as well, including age. I bet you can remember a person who ‘doesn’t act their age’ or who doesn’t look the age they are because their state of mind is either younger or older.

  • Personality
  • The world out there
  • Your view of that world
  • How you prefer to plan
  • Your skills and abilities
  • Talents you have
  • Opportunities out there
  • Influences: family, background, where you live, …
  • Your age
  • Your longer-term views about your life – but these will change, guaranteed!
  • Skills you have now and want to develop
  • Interests you have and want to develop
  • Your short term and longer-term needs for – money, adventure or stability, family life,
  • Your achievements

Why is it useful to think about these things that influence us?

If we know what influences us we can make a conscious decision on whether we let them or not!

What can you add to this list?


Different ways of planning

How do I make choices?

Very generally, the many different ways you can plan your future can be boiled down to two different approaches. You don’t have to choose between one of the two. Most people will be somewhere in between the two anyway.

Which of the two you will be drawn to depends on a number of things:

  • Your personality
  • The career you are thinking of
  • The course you want to do at college
  • The world of work

A. Planning towards a goal in the future.

This used to be the main way to plan but these days, most people don’t aim for a fixed job they work in all their working life. Most people will at least change jobs quite a few times during their lifetime and many will even change direction completely more than once.

So if you plan this way, always keep an open mind!


  • people who like to plan this way may prefer certainty about the job part of their future over adventure.



some careers take a long time to get into and they take a lot of planning and determination. Examples could be:

  • Medicine – this is a very competitive area that requires high academic grades in specific subjects as well as work experience, before you even get to university. So longer term planning and a fixed aim and determination are important.
  • The performing arts – similar to medicine, real determination is important, as well as a very clear focus on ‘wanting to get there’. This area isn’t for the faint hearted and requires you to develop talents and skills you have from a very young age ideally. You may try a lot of different things within this but your focus needs to be on your goal (and ideally on a backup too!)


The subject you want to study

at college or the apprenticeship, you want to get into:

  • If you want to do an apprenticeship, you’re more likely by definition almost, to plan with a particular goal in mind. Likewise, some subjects at college will have ‘goal planning’ in mind. Examples are those closely linked to a trade or profession, such as: hairdressing, motor vehicle mechanics, plumbing, etc…


The world of work:

  • jobs are much more fluid now, but if you want to enter a competitive area, another one is law, then you need to be very focused and sure about wanting to get there.


The pitfalls…

  • However you plan for a specific career, you will change and so will things around you. So you still need to respond to this by keeping an open mind and some flexibility.
    • 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. 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.


What can you do?

Do your research about what you are aiming for:

  • Talk to people
  • Do online research into the job or career
  • Try work experience in what you are aiming for
  • Think about your personality; what kind of person would do that job and do you fit in?
  • Research the courses you need to do to get there and how easy or difficult is it going to be.
  • Do you need a backup? You probably do – so research and think about this as well.

So if a longer term decision appeals to you then you may need to do in depth research, exploration and thinking. You’re aiming for longer term goals so you need to be a bit more sure than if you were to take things one step at a time.

Think about:

  • What would you do if your goal suddenly doesn’t suit you anymore.
  • What would you need to put in place if you suddenly can’t get there anymore for whatever reason.
  • What can you do to prevent that what you thought you are going to aim for is really the way you expect?


B. Step by step planning

Step by step planning fits in well with how the world of work functions these days. Lots of people don’t just do the one job for the rest of their lives. Have a look at the world of work in the 21st century.

Your personality

  • If you’re adventurous or you have a creative personality and want to see how it all works out, but you’re not too nervous about a bit of risk, then this may be the way of planning you prefer.
  • Depending on what you would like to do, the amount of risk doesn’t have to be very big if you plan step by step. Just like with aiming for a fixed goal, it’s all in the planning and preparation.


The career you are thinking of

  • Some careers require you to be flexible before you get to ‘the top’, if that’s where you like to be. They are mainly the careers where you do something related to build up skills before you move into something else, that usually pays better. Examples are:
    • Media and television – you usually start ‘at the bottom’ and then work your way up, making many side steps and sometimes steps backward, before you are successful. Success is not certain and you need to be flexible enough to move into something related or something else altogether.
    • Art – if you have a general interest in art, you could do an art course at college and then see what you want to get into afterwards. There are so many different areas within art that you don’t have to plan everything out from the start, but you can see where it leads, one step at a time.


The course you want to do at college:

  • College courses that allow you to be flexible and plan step by step are usually those that are not linked to one particular trade or profession. Examples are: Media, Applied Science, Music and even beauty therapy to some extent.


The world of work

Have a look at the page about the world of work in the 21st century. You’ll notice that flexible, step by step planning fits in quite well with that on many occasions.

You don’t have to have it all planned out at any point, but it’s ok if you have (but still have a backup!)


The pitfalls

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?


What can you do?

Do your research about your next step:

  • Talk to people about the course or job you are hoping to get into next.
  • Do online research into what it can lead on to in the short term and later on.
  • Think about your personality; does the course offer learning and testing that fits in with your personality? Eg.: is it exam based and do you prefer this over practical assessments?
  • Are you sure you are going to get in? Or do you need a backup? You probably do – so research and think about this as well.

Think about:

If you prefer to plan step by step, or if you don’t know what you would like to do later on, then this is ideal. But it’s still very important to find out what it can lead on to in the future to make sure that you like the area of work or learning linked to the option you are thinking about. For instance: if you are thinking about doing a course in design, but you are really interested in the broad area of science, then you need to make sure you find out about the links between the two and if there aren’t any that appeal to you, you could find alternative options for your next step.


What’s your outlook on life and career?

This may seem like something that’s not important, but it has a lot on influence of what you plan and how you plan. Most people plan around what they like, what they are good at etc… so this is often overlooked which is why I want to mention it here. It’s important to be aware of these so you know where they and you fit in.

About change:

As I mentioned, the world is never stable and change is part of reality, whether you like it or not. So doing your best to be able to adapt to change is important. It’s called resilience. However, if you don’t like change then what you plan next is going to have a big influence on what you choose. You’re for instance likely to go for ideas that offer stability and certainty.

  • How do you cope with change at the moment? Is this likely to improve or get worse as you get older? (hint: it gets better most of the time!)

Have you heard of work-life balance?

Do you see work as something separate to your life? Or is work part of life?

  • People who see work as separate to life will be more likely to think “any job where I earn a lot of money will do, as long as I can have fun outside work”. This means that the choices you make and what you are aiming for will most likely reflect this to some extent.
  • If you are someone who feels that you need to aim for something worthwhile that adds value to your general life, for instance a job where you can help people, then you are more like to have the idea that work is an integral part of life. Often ‘entrepreneurs’ and people running their own business will fit in more with this.

Both are absolutely fine, and most people will be somewhere in the middle.

What will you be like in the future?

What kind of person will you be in 5 or 10 years time? It’s very hard to say, isn’t it?

  • However, the choices you make at the age you are now will likely be different to what you would like out of life or a job in ten years time.
  • Your situation will change as well and that will influence your choices. You could play different roles in the future, influencing your choice. You could be a parent, or a grandparent eventually for instance.

Most of these things are hard to predict of course. See the section on change above! But it may be useful to be aware of where you would want life to take you and the different choices you may have to make when you are a different age.

The people you mix with and where you live.

How do the different things in your living environment influence your choices?

Examples are:

  • The jobs people in your family do. These are the jobs you see and there may be many more out there you don’t know about. It’s perfectly ok to follow in your family’s footsteps but it’s also important to be aware of this.
  • Or where you live. If you live in the countryside you may have different ideas of what you want to do then if you live in a town, because your experiences are different.
  • What is your cultural and social background and what does it expect you to do? How would you feel, or how would you fit in if you move away from your familiar environment?