Career Planning Resources

The career planning process can be divided into six steps:

Self-Assessment
Career Exploration 
Targeting Specific Careers 
Career Preparation
Marketing Yourself 
Career Management 


Step 1: Self-Assessment

What you will do for a living depends a lot on who you are. This sounds obvious perhaps, but many people neglect considering this important side of selecting a career. You can avoid joining the ranks of people who are dissatisfied with their work by making a conscious effort to assess yourself. There is no way you can be absolutely certain that a career will meet all of your needs, but there are things you can do very easily that will help you learn more about who you are. Once mastered, techniques of self-assessment can be repeated throughout your life.

 

What is self-assessment?
Essentially, it is a simple way to enhance self-understanding. It is being able to describe your unique characteristics clearly and accurately regarding:

 

  • What you do well (skills) 
  • What is important to you (values) 
  • What you like to do (interests)

 

Since there is no better source of information about you than yourself, the easiest method of increasing self-understanding is to review and analyze your past and present experiences. Increasing your knowledge of your skills, values, and interests will help determine the type of work that fits you best.

Skills are sometimes thought of as general talents/strengths or specific knowledge/abilities acquired through training. Your skills, however, also include a variety of attributes and personal characteristics. Accordingly, these skill categories are commonly referred to as transferable, work content, and self-management. An undergraduate education is more than just learning the subject matter of your major. It also involves acquiring and developing transferable skills and abilities in a wide range of fields outside your major. Consider the skills which have already contributed to your successes and you will likely notice areas in which you excel. You may wonder how knowing about skills can help you choose a career. Simply look at any job description. A job is made up of a series of "tasks" for which the person in that position is responsible. In fact, most jobs are described in terms of duties or responsibilities. If you closely examine each of these tasks, you will discover that it requires a specific set of skills to perform them. Some ability tests measure certain skills but are situation specific. They cannot accurately predict future successful performance, except at certain jobs in specific environments. In fact, you are the best judge of your skills, if you take an accurate reading of your own experiences.

Values are vague. Global concepts are sometimes difficult to understand. A value is something that is important to you or that you feel has worth such as marriage, family, religion, education, etc. What has little value for one person may be of great value to another. Values tend to permeate and influence all aspects of our lives. Just as life is ever changing, so are values. Values evolve and continue to develop just as the individual grows and develops.  

Work-related values encompass a wide variety of specific elements. Examples of work-related values include: advancement opportunities, affiliation on the job, autonomy, benefits, change and variety, creativity, decision-making, excitement and adventure, flexibility in work hours, helping others, and high earnings. 

Interests and abilities are not the same thing. You may have interests in a field or interests in common with specific professionals, but you may lack the abilities necessary to be successful in this field. Similarly, you may have the ability to do a number of things in which you have little interest or little interest in common with those who are in the field.  

The meaning of interests is straightforward. What kind of activities do you like? What type of work do you enjoy? What subjects do you enjoy studying? What kinds of people do you enjoy being around? Specifically, your interests are those things that grab your curiosity — the activities that give you pleasure. They are the sum of your preferences that give definition to who you are. At first glance, assessing and identifying your skills, values, and interests may seem to be a simple method for matching people to career fields.

Ultimately, your career choice will involve a complex evaluation of many factors about you, including personality traits and aspirations. There are a number of resources and techniques available that will help you gain more information about yourself and these factors.

Consider using the following Career Services for self-assessment:

  • Individual career counseling and self-assessment
  • Career Planning Workshop (Contact Career Services (305) 628-6688)

 


Step 2: Career Exploration
 
It is difficult, if not impossible, for the average person to make a rational decision or to evaluate and consider specific careers without an accurate information base. Career information gathering is an integral step in the process of career planning.

Initially, you will need to generate a list of careers which you may want to consider. Don’t forget to take into account those careers you are merely curious about exploring. Other ways to develop a list of career alternatives include the results of self-assessment, professors, and career publications (e.g., Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which contains over 12,000 occupations). After developing the list, you will need to briefly research each career alternative and judge which of these seem potentially suitable for future employment. Determine for each: typical on-the-job duties, qualifications, outlook, salary, methods of entry, etc. How do your skills, values and interests correspond to the types of work you are considering?

There are three ways of gathering career information:

  • Reading everything you can about careers 
  • Talking to people 
  • Participating in field experiences (internships)

 

Caution should be exercised in assessing career information that is inaccurate or has become obsolete.

The following Career Services will help you with career exploration:

 


Step 3: Targeting

If you have investigated a number of career alternatives, you are now ready to target a primary career goal. Initially, it may be easy to rule out several choices as obviously inappropriate. With the remaining alternatives, it may be very difficult to select the one that fits you best. Additional research regarding the career options, your skills, values, and interests may be necessary. Any decision, career or otherwise, should be approached with sufficient information. The problem now lies in how to process the information and render a decision.

The probability of making a decision with a favorable outcome can be increased with careful consideration and a logical approach. A systematic method is one that uses a framework within which you can effectively analyze and evaluate the data you have gathered for your career decision. Anyone can learn the technique of systematic career decision-making. It can be described as a series of five tasks. In order they are:

  1. Define the decision to be made
  2. Identify all choices to be considered in the decision
  3. Gather information on each option (see "Majors/Careers Profiles")
  4. Evaluate the potential outcome of each option considered
  5. Make a selection of the most appropriate option

 

Step 4: Career Preparation

Once you have made a career decision, the next task is to begin planning how to prepare for the career, how to get experience in it, and how to actually enter the field. In this step, you should identify the degree of effort and all the things which are required to be successful in your chosen career. What are the specific educational and experiential requirements? Of the qualifications required by that career, which ones do you currently possess, and which ones do you need to acquire? How will you best obtain the qualifications: college education, internships, special training? Answers to these questions will help you identify and set relevant goals.

Having established the career goals and defined the tasks to achieve them, you should then set up a timeline. Obviously, you cannot accomplish everything at once. Certain activities logically precede others. Try to put it all on paper, identifying activities which must occur, their proper sequence, and the time that it will take for each. Finally, put into action the long- and short-range goals and monitor your progress as you work.

Keep in mind that employers want well-rounded college graduates rather than those with just high grade point averages. To successfully prepare for any career, you will need to develop certain personal attributes. Traits such as flexibility, confidence, maturity, judgment, cooperation, leadership and the ability to handle a heavy workload will also be taken into consideration. Participation in extracurricular activities can assist in developing these qualities.


Step 5: Marketing Yourself

The following Career Services will help you with marketing yourself:
  • Individual career advising 
  • Employer information tables
  • Career Services Library (current full-time job listings)
  • Job search materials/handouts
  • Career Expos
  • Resume & Cover Letter Writing, Interviewing & Skills Employers Seek Workshops

 

There is a great deal to be learned regarding obtaining employment. Job hunting is in itself a full-time job, and should be treated as such. Finding the job you want, at an attractive salary and in the desired geographic location, is the result of using effective job search techniques. The job search process is analogous to conducting a marketing campaign. Consider for a moment that you have a product (your skills and training) to sell and the potential employer is the consumer. As a salesperson, you must identify potential consumers of your products and learn how they can use your product. You must be aware of your competition and know the product you are selling. To successfully close a sale, you need to carefully prepare your advertising tools (resume, cover letter, interviewing skills), target a specific consumer group (potential employers), and determine the best mode of marketing (approaching employers).

Job seekers have used marketing tactics which we can classify as the traditional job search approach: identifying job openings for the purpose of direct application, using employment agencies, and participating in on-campus recruiting. In addition to the traditional approach, employment experts have been advocating a nontraditional approach. This strategy requires the job seeker to become more assertive in contacting potential employers. Government studies show that only one in five job openings is likely to be advertised or listed with employment agencies. In fact, a high percentage of job hunters ultimately find employment through people they have met (i.e., friends, alumni, faculty, professional association members). This is known as networking. As you expand the circle of people who know your abilities and interests, more employment opportunities will present themselves.

Ultimately, the best search strategy may be one which combines methods. Whether you use the traditional approach or the nontraditional approach, you will have to have a personal resume and cover letter to market yourself and to obtain an interview. Should you need assistance with writing a resume, a cover letter and/or developing effective interviewing skills, contact Career Services. Conducting a successful job search requires commitment and active participation. Be persistent, patient, and positive, and develop as many employer contacts as you need — until you get the "yes."

 

Step 6: Career Management

Going to work as a professional is very different from attending school. As a student, you completed identified assignments for specific grades. As an employee, evaluation procedures are often vague. In many situations, you are expected to produce results with relatively little direction or feedback.

Regardless of the employer and position, you need to get off to a strong start and manage your career with care. Your understanding of the world of work, networking efforts, and contributions on the job will directly affect your career security and advancement opportunities. Keep track of your accomplishments and log them in specific terms. This data will assist you in negotiating the work assignments, performance appraisals, salary, and promotions you desire.

In times of rapid change and rampant obsolescence in occupation fields, you must remain flexible. Career decisions are not only concerned with initial choices, but with career changes as well. The "one-job, one-career work life" phenomenon has been increasingly replaced by a "12-jobs, four-careers work life." At some point you may begin to ask questions of yourself about your present employment. You may wonder whether there is something better available, or as your skills, values, and interests change, whether another position would better meet these factors. If and when this occurs, the career planning process has completed its cycle.

You can return to Step 1: Self-assessment and begin the process again anytime during your working years, as often as you desire

Special thanks to California State University Long Beach. Accessed April 29, 2005: http://careers.csulb.edu/students/careers/career_planning.html#step1