The biggest mistake most make in their careers? Many times the individual will fit themselves into a job rather than finding a job or career that fits them and subsequently fits into their lives.
Career planning makes all the difference. Thinking about what you need at each stage of your career, putting it down on paper, thinking in terms of progress in 3 months to a year to three year intervals and frequently reviewing your progress are all necessary ingredients to planning and developing a satisfying and rewarding career.
It’s no mystery that many people surrender themselves to less than satisfying careers, not working up to their potential and having never fully explored all their options. For example, peer or family pressure guides some into college when entrepreneurship or a technical school education may be better. Others elect college majors or fall into jobs based on the earnings potential and then later find they are unhappy.
Recently a survey revealed that almost half of college-educated workers between the ages of 25 and 50 polled said they would choose a different major if they could do it over. The majority of college graduates will have switched careers at least once, and about one in five expect to switch in the future. Chalk it up to indecisiveness, economic or societal changes, or fate, but more than likely it’s because many didn’t have a plan.
It’s never to late to develop a career plan, even after 50, you can find work in a satisfying and challenging new career.
Regardless of where you are in your career, it’s important to do informational interviews with people in the field or the company you want to enter. Also, expand your research to libraries and the Internet. There are, for example, over 20,000 job titles listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Let’s face it. It’s cheaper to do your career planning up front than stay in the wrong job too long or change college majors halfway through school. Having a documented and well thought out plan early on helps you discover your career-related interests and abilities.
It will also guide you to help identify occupations that match your interests, knowledge and personality. From here you can develop areas in which you need further education and study. What are the demands of the job and how well will you handle the work demands are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself as you research your opportunities.
Whether it’s a first career or a later change in careers, or even a career change after 50, many people have sought out the services of a career counselor or coach. Keep in mind that there aren’t any universal requirements for career coaching. Depending on the state, some counselors must undergo rigorous state licensing requirements and have advanced degrees in counseling or social work. On the other hand, some coaches draw on years of work experience and simply hang out a shingle. Ask around for recommendations if this avenue seems promising. Bottom line: whatever career plan is developed it’s your responsibility to work the plan.
There is nothing wrong with doing the job you really want on the weekends or part-time. You can hold down the job that pays the bills and pursue your entrepreneurial or artistic goals during your off time until you determine how to do it full-time.
Career development and planning is a constant effort and never really ends. Your written goals should look ahead in reasonable blocks of time. Equally important, you do not stop your career planning once you get your dream job. Society and the global economy is constantly changing, you must have a flexible career plan that adapts to whatever comes along. If so, it’s clear you’ll be much better prepared than your peers.