8 Career Planning Tips That Work

18 Feb

After teaching career planning for several years, I’ve narrowed down the process of finding a career to the following 8 steps that anyone can use, in any field, to increase their chances of finding work that will bring them gainful employment and personal fulfillment.

1. DETERMINE YOUR VALUES: Simply put: what’s important to you? Do you value freedom? Do you like autonomy? Or working as a member of a team? Do you like structure? Or lack of structure? Working a lot of hours? Or working flexible hours? Do you want a job with a significant paycheck? Or a job that provides significance to your life? These are all crucial questions that you must be able to answer because they will impact both your short and long-term happiness. Often people are able to answer these questions with greater conviction once they’ve experienced a sampling of various work environments and situations.

2. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS: Study, after study reveals that the real key to success is fully utilizing our strengths, and shying away from activities which reveal your weaknesses. People tend to make the mistake of trying to convert weaknesses into strengths. Those efforts are futile. Your time should actually be spent increasing and utilizing your strengths, which are the foundation for your core competency.

3. ASSESS YOUR SKILLS: In my class I have my students use what I call a core competency tree diagram. The purpose of this diagram is to bundle their greatest (i.e., strongest, best developed, most marketable, etc.) skill as the trunk (the core skill) with their remaining skills (secondary and supporting skills) as the branches. This exercise has proven to be very effective in pinpointing the most viable skills that one brings to the table. The accurate assessment of skills is often overlooked and results in underemployment. The phrase “the skills to pay the bills” should spring to mind when it comes to the articulation of the skill set that you possess.

4. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!: Too often people choose the wrong careers because they don’t know the myriad of vocations that exist within their field of study. This often results in misemployment and disenchantment. Time spent properly researching the profession that you intend to undertake, and the field you wish to enter, is vital. Part of this research should include conducting informational interviews with people who do what you would like to do for a living, visiting sites that contain blogs that are written by people in your chosen field, and reading trade magazines that contain stories about the movers and shakers in your industry.

5. CREATE YOUR PLAN: The most important benefit of having a plan is that it gives you a sense of direction in helping you reach your goals. In real life career planning, we choose the paths that we believe will take us to our destinations, but we have to be open to embarking upon new paths which may emerge in the course of our journey. Just as having a plan is important, so is the importance of planning to be flexible. It will keep you open to a realm of possibilities and help you arrive at your rightful destination.

6. CHANNEL YOUR PASSIONS: The importance of passion is well-documented: “Follow your heart,” “Do what you love,” and so forth. It’s absolutely true! The key factor here is to channel your passions sooner than later – though it’s never too late to do what you love – there are distinct opportunities that are afforded to the young; capitalize on your youth! There is no sense in delaying the pursuit of what you are passionate about. Everyone has passions, but not everyone channels them properly. Untapped passion and talent is like the bud of a flower that never fully opens to achieve it’s full beauty and splendor. As long as you channel your passions into something – for work which you are paid or not – you are nurturing it so that it may bolster your career momentum, or can be parlayed into an alternative career.

7. GET SOME EXPERIENCE: Simply put: there is no substitute for experience. You need to get as much of it as quickly as you can. Interning is a win-win proposition for you and a prospective employer because they get free labor, and you get valuable experience. Without this experience, you remain idealistic if not unrealistic about the true-to-life rigors of the profession, and of the industry you want to work in. Gaining experience will help to confirm your interests and pursuits, or help to re-direct them. Interning is by far the smartest thing to do in a tight job market while you seek full-time employment.

8. GET A MISSION CRITICAL ALLY: Everyone knows the importance of networking. But everyone does not know the importance of having mission critical allies. First, if you don’t have a mission (a plan that you prioritize over everything else in life) then you don’t need a mission critical ally. Mission critical allies are those who we forge valuable relationships with that include mentoring and support. Russell Simmons was a mission critical ally for Diddy. Rick Rubin was a mission critical ally for Russell Simmons. Find a mission critical ally and make them your best friend.

Good luck in all of your career endeavors!

Gian Fiero is a seasoned educator, speaker and consultant with a focus on business development and music/entertainment industry operations. He is affiliated with San Francisco State University as an adjunct professor and the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) where he conducts monthly workshops on topics such as career planning, public relations, and personal growth.

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